Offensive outburst gives Mariners chance to exhale

Offensive outburst gives Mariners chance to exhale

Hernández, Pollock swat 2 HRs each as Castillo helps club get back in ‘W’ column

6:36 AM UTC

SEATTLE — Scott Servais sat in T-Mobile Park’s home dugout on Tuesday afternoon and pondered the notion of his team “pressing” in light of a season-opening four-game losing streak. Maybe it was the frustration of the slow start or his quick wit when quashing questions over the Mariners’ early struggles, but he hypothesized how to turn things around.

“You know, if we hit a few more homers,” the Mariners’ manager said sardonically, “we might win. That’s what I came up with.”

Sure enough, Servais’ sarcasm turned into sound strategy. Seattle swatted four homers — two apiece from newcomers Teoscar Hernández and AJ Pollock — and notched an additional nine hits en route to a dominant 11-2 win over the Angels. Beyond the long ball, 5 2/3 innings of zeros from Luis Castillo in his second straight scoreless outing were just as vital.

They say hitting is contagious, and after the admitted pressure of opening this season of huge anticipation, maybe a game like Tuesday’s can serve as a proverbial exhale.

“It absolutely is, and then guys start to relax,” Servais said. “You see the smile on their faces again and then just go out and play their game.”

Hernández was the headliner, with two no-doubters that traveled a projected 419 and 426 feet — the first way beyond straightaway center and the other that smashed off the out-of-town scoreboard above the home bullpen, both clearing the deepest parts of the park. But Pollock wouldn’t be undone, jumping out on a middle-middle slider for 388 feet then yanking a high-and-in sinker for 380.

Both sluggers are in their first year here, both have struggled with their timing — and both have badly wanted to make a strong impression.

“I don’t feel pressure, but I know it’s in there,” Hernández said. “I was trying to do my best to impress everybody. I don’t want to put that pressure on me, but I know it’s in there. I don’t think about it.”

Tuesday marked Hernández’s first multi-homer game since Game 2 of last year’s AL Wild Card Series — for the Blue Jays and against these Mariners, who needed to orchestrate a historic comeback just to erase the massive lead he’d almost single-handedly created. His presence, along with Pollock’s, was to address their offense’s liability against lefties, especially in an AL West that has so many southpaw starters. Tuesday’s Angels starter, José Suarez, is a lefty they saw four times last season.

Seattle hit .233/.325/.386 (.711 OPS) against lefties last year and was at times hamstrung by limited production from lefty-hitting Jarred Kelenic, Adam Frazier and Jesse Winker. Pollock is serving as a direct platoon to Kelenic and Hernández took over for Mitch Haniger, who was sidelined for all but 56 games last year.

“We’re going to need those guys to continue to dominate,” Servais said. “It was fun tonight, it really was. You kind of see the whole thing come together. It’s not going to be that easy every night, but we needed a night like tonight.”

Aside from what the Mariners hope will be lineup upgrades, Tuesday’s showing also eased some anxiety to their sluggish start, especially given that it’d been most of their new additions who’d struggled most: Hernández (1-for-17), Pollock (0-for-6), Kolten Wong (1-for-13), Cooper Hummel (0-for-6) and Tommy La Stella (1-for-8). 

Overall, the Mariners entered the night hitting .188/.256/.303, with a .559 OPS that ranked third worst in MLB and a 55 wRC+ (league average is 100) that was fourth worst. The only teams behind them? Arizona, Washington and Detroit, lineups that were expected by many to be among the game’s worst.

“I wanted to get hits,” Hernández said. “I wanted to get on base, I wanted to do things to help the team. I wasn’t doing that. Things weren’t going the way I wanted it to go. I finally made some adjustments. My timing, it’s a little better. It’s getting better.”

Another brilliant start from Castillo also helped, too. He’s now faced 40 batters, given up just three hits and struck out 12 — including Mike Trout twice on Tuesday. Castillo has come up huge in each of the Mariners’ pair of wins this young season.

“For me, I don’t feel like I have that responsibility to break those streaks,” Castillo said. “Every one of these starting pitchers has the ability to perform or do well.”

Seattle’s front office believed it assembled a roster that could play matchups, score more consistently and back an elite rotation. Though it led to some anxious reaction over a four-game skid, Tuesday showed why the Mariners believe in what they have.

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