Lee hopes walk-off sparks 'winning streak'

Korean player is first Mariners rookie to hit a pinch-hit game-ending HR

April 14th, 2016

SEATTLE -- Dae-Ho Lee is a big man with a big personality. The Mariners who have been around the slugger since he signed a Minor League deal with Seattle before Spring Training now know that he's a big-time clutch performer in the big leagues, too.

Lee had his first true Mariners moment on Wednesday afternoon, and it could not have come at a better time. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound, right-handed-hitting, 33-year-old first baseman stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 10th inning with a runner on base and tough left-hander Jake Diekman throwing gas for the Rangers. There were two outs. There would not be a third.

Diekman threw two fastballs by him at 97 and 95 mph. He tried a third one at 97 mph. Lee crushed it over the left-field fence, ending the Mariners' five-game losing streak that began their Safeco Field slate in 2016 and giving them a 4-2 win over the Rangers. The Mariners now leave for New York with a bit of momentum and a serious slugging weapon at their disposal.

"For him, when we first got to Spring Training, how was he going to handle the velocity?" Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "There were concerns there. But the thing that we kept seeing is that he is able to make adjustments. He cuts down the leg kick, he cuts down his swing to make contact, and he's plenty strong enough that if he does square it up, he's got enough power. So he makes adjustments."

And as of Wednesday, he makes history.

Lee, who starred in Japan the last four seasons after beginning his career with 10 seasons in Korea, became the first Mariners rookie in club history to hit a pinch-hit walk-off homer and only the third player in team history to turn the trick. The other two were Kendrys Morales on June 23, 2013, and Ken Phelps on Sept. 3, 1986.

Lee hit the ball and ran as fast as he could. He said he thought it was a home run, but he "wanted to make sure I was running fast enough."

He didn't have to run at all.

"I just was thinking that I'm so happy to stop that losing streak," Lee said through an interpreter. "Now I hope it's a winning streak."

So do the Mariners, and this hard-fought victory might be the lift that gets the team going.

"The makeup of our club is we have a lot of guys that care about each other, and they want to be good," Servais said. "They want to have a good year. And they want to win a lot of games, but it's beyond that. You've got to show up every day, and you've got to find a way. And today we found a way to get it done."

Lee provided the cherry on top, a blast that won't be forgotten around here anytime soon.

"He is fitting in very nicely with our club," Servais said. "And if he keeps hitting homers, he'll fit in even better."