Mariners confident in approach, staying focused

Club unable to homer for first time on road this season

April 24th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Mariners went unrewarded for their efforts Tuesday night in the batter’s box, on the mound and with the glove. It was exactly the kind of game people mean when they say, “Trust the approach.”

The record will show that Seattle lost 6-3 to the Padres at Petco Park for their eighth defeat in their past 11 games. It will also show the Mariners failed to hit a home run in a road game for the first time this season.

It will not show that the early afternoon start for the series finale Wednesday is not soon enough. The Mariners were ready to turn around and play the Padres again just about the moment ’s foul tip landed in the glove of catcher Austin Hedges for the final out.

Yes, the Mariners trust the approach.

They trust the approach with the bat. Although their season-opening streak of 13 straight road games with a homer ended, they continued to put pressure on the opposition. They drew six walks. They chased Padres starter Nick Margevicius after five innings because his pitch count ballooned to 94. They put a runner on in each of the first seven innings.

“We had some chances,” manager Scott Servais said.

The Mariners lead the Majors with 56 homers, but they know it’s unrealistic to expect that to keep up. Tuesday marked only the second time the Mariners did not homer in a game. What Servais and the organization want is for the hitters to produce, even when the ball stays in the park.

Seattle has seen an average of 4.12 pitches per plate appearance, which also ranks No. 1 in the Majors. The Mariners work the count. They look to take advantage of favorable counts. They look to make pitchers make their best pitches, rather than get themselves out chasing pitches out of the zone.

“We sat down in Spring Training and had a lot of hitters’ meetings -- what we want to be about,” Servais said. “It’s clear this is the direction we want to go. This is what the best teams do. This is important to us, and guys have gotten the message.”

The homers belonged to the Padres on this day, two by Franmil Reyes and one wacky homer off the glove of center fielder Mallex Smith. In the sixth inning, Smith ran a long way across center field in pursuit of a ball hit by Hedges against reliever Cory Gearrin. Smith got to the warning track to the right of the batter’s eye, leaped toward the wall and … deflected the ball over the wall for a two-run homer when it bounced out of his glove. Smith slumped in disbelief.

Yet, Smith trusts his approach. He had spent part of his pregame drills taking fly balls in that very area. He was ready.

“It caught me in the palm. It just kind of toilet-bowled out of there,” Smith said. “Not sure what you can do about that. Maybe fix your glove a little bit better. … I had a good idea of where I was. I practiced out there earlier today. I had a good feel of where the wall was. I saw the ball. I timed it well. I just didn’t complete the play. That’s the next step.”

Rookie right-hander Erik Swanson dropped to 0-2 in his two Major League starts, having allowed five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings. He, too, trusts his approach.

“I’m going to just continue to attack with my fastball and work in the slider,” he said. “I was aggressive and got ahead in the count a lot. … Just a couple pitches, location-wise, I didn’t execute as well as I wanted to.”

Said Servais: “He kept us in the game. I was happy the way he threw the ball.”