We’ve talked plenty about the contributions last night by Mike Zunino — who is not in the lineup tonight as the Mariners give new catcher Henry Blanco a chance at action right away — but the play that may have ultimately decided the contest came from Kyle Seager. If Seager doesn’t take out the legs of Jed Lowrie at second base on an eighth-inning slide, then the Oakland Athletics would have completed a double-play by throwing out slow-running Michael Morse at first base.
The inning would have been over and Raul Ibanez would not have gotten the chance to come up and drive in a key third run with a single. That run turned out to be the difference in the game. So, without Seager’s play, you can make the argument the Mariners likely would not have won.
Seager plays the game hard. He plays the game right. I caught up with him in the clubhouse a short while ago and asked him what goes into a slide like that. Because clearly, there is an art to it. You can’t just go gunning for the opposing infielder’s legs all the time, or else that reputation is going to catch up to you and get you hurt by another team somewhere down the line.
“You’re never trying to blatantly hurt somebody,” Seager said. “The whole point is to go in there hard, in moments where you’re actually close enough to make a difference. If it’s a sharp ground ball right at the infielder, the obviously you’re better off just getting down because the ball (on the throw) is going to be coming right at you anyway.”
But on last night’s play, there were runners at first and second with one out and Seager wasn’t being held on by first baseman Nate Freiman. When Seager saw the pitch come in low and Morse begin to swing, he anticipated a ground ball and got a good jump towards second.
“Then, when I saw it was a chopper, I knew it was going to take time to get the ball to second base,” Seager said. “So, I knew I was going to get there around the same time as the ball. That’s when you go in hard.”
Seager did just that and Lowrie tried to hold up behind the bag rather than continue across it. That didn’t really work out for him and he went tumbling. Morse kept trying to run as quickly as he could and made it across first base safely.
Seager isn’t the only young player who plays the game this way on a regular basis. Michael Saunders also plays the game hard and aggressively and the “right” way.
The difference between them this season is that Seager has been a regular offensive contributor, while Saunders has seen his offensive game vanish.
That’s been the biggest disappointment for the Mariners so far, I’d say. Maybe even more so than Dustin Ackley or Jesus Montero.
Saunders has so many skills and brings so many different weapons to the game that the Mariners could really benefit from. But they just have not been able to. There is still time, but Saunders really does have to figure something out or he’ll be in Class AAA soon once Franklin Gutierrez and new outfielder Ackley are ready to be promoted.
On that front, manager Eric Wedge said today he’s awaiting status reports on both Gutierrez and Justin Smoak. There’s a chance that Smoak could rejoin the club in Anaheim next week, but Wedge said he wants to be certain this oblique strain is over and done with for good.
On Ackley, he wants to give him time to adjust to the outfield and to make certain the solid offensive numbers he’s put up in AAA are “real” and will last.
But there isn’t much time. The offense is a real concern for this team and the Mariners need to get the black hole that Saunders has become out of the daily lineup if he can’t turn things around. But to do that, the Mariners need center field option. Right now, they don’t have many.