Mariners tap into deep potential in complete team win 

Homers from Suárez, Kelenic and Toro back Ray, then 'pen shuts the door

April 20th, 2022

SEATTLE -- It wasn’t their most dominant win of the year, but it sure felt like their most complete. They got six solid innings from their ace, crushed three homers and received production up and down the lineup and then its elite bullpen threw up zeros to the finish line.

This is who the 2022 Mariners want to be, night in and night out, and it was all illustrated in a commanding 6-2 win over the Rangers on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park.

“Crisp, short, homers, good pitching, solid bullpen,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We kind of checked all the boxes tonight.”

Here is a breakdown of why Tuesday’s win was the type that best illustrated Seattle’s step forward since last year, and its potential for the marathon ahead.

The longer lineup hit it hard

A towering, three-run homer from Eugenio Suárez in the first inning gave Robbie Ray plenty of cushion to work with on a night when the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner made his much-anticipated home debut.

Jarred Kelenic added a solo shot in the second that eerily mirrored his first, which he hit Thursday in Chicago: over 110 mph off the bat and off the right-field foul pole. And Abraham Toro, the versatile utility man whom this front office covets, broke out of a 2-for-25 funk to start the season with a booming, two-run shot in the seventh on an 0-2 count.

All six runs were via the long ball, and the Mariners have now homered in nine of their 11 games, the other two being shutouts. They also had 11 baserunners total.

“That’s what we want, to put pressure on them and the opposing pitcher,” Suárez said. “Have good at-bats, do our best at the plate, not swing at bad pitches. ... We need to play like this every single day.”

And though Seattle hasn’t yet gotten much production out of Jesse Winker, he seems on the cusp, flying out to the warning track twice, including one that had a 70 percent hit probability, per Statcast. Winker has seen 173 total pitches and only swung at two outside the strike zone. He also drew his 11th and 12th walks Tuesday, putting him in the AL lead.

“Winker's swing decisions have been outstanding. ... You typically think you're going to hit better, get more hits, but again, it'll eventually play out and even out,” Servais said.

Without best stuff, Ray navigates six strong

Ray’s fastball velocity averaged 92.7 mph, up from the 91.9 mph he had in his first two starts, but down from the 94.8 he averaged last year. He still generated 11 whiffs, struck out four and gave up just four hits, one walk and two runs.

“He's got enough life on the fastball,” Servais said. “Even when it's not bumping the fives and sixes, it's got enough life. He’s deceptive, it plays up and it gets a lot of popups, easy outs, early-in-count outs, and that's why he's able to go deep into ballgames.”

His slider was the superior pitch Tuesday, with only one single allowed to Corey Seager.

“I was able to get some swing-and-misses on it when I threw it in the zone,” Ray said. “They started to take it a little bit later in the game. It's just an adjustment that I need to make. When teams get kind of passive toward the slider, I feel like when I throw it in the zone, it gets results as well. So just understanding when they're going to start taking it in and again, throw the pitch that I want to throw.”

Ray was lifted after just 85 pitches, in large part, due to the hard-hit balls the Rangers were squaring up against him, with exit velocities of 107.5, 106.8 and 105.2 mph among four of his final nine hitters. He joined San Diego’s Sean Manaea as the only starters to go six innings in each of their first three outings.

Bullpen picking up right where it left off

A relief corps that last year ranked fourth in the Majors with 7.0 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs, is off to another strong start after Drew Steckenrider, Paul Sewald and Diego Castillo each threw a scoreless inning.

Because they were fresh off Monday’s off-day, Servais had the disposal to deploy the staff in the most optimum pockets and spell Ray.

“Our bullpen is electric,” Ray said. “All the guys down there are pretty amazing. We’ve got guys that can pitch in any situation. We’ve got five or six guys down there that could close games. So, coming out after the sixth inning, you pretty much know it's going to get locked down.”

Mariners’ bullpen numbers through Tuesday (MLB rank)
ERA: 2.27 (4th)
Strikeout rate: 31.2% (1st)
Walk rate: 7.2% (2nd)
WHIP: 0.87 (2nd)
Opposing BA: .184 (1st)