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May 12, 2024 9:33 am

Mariners’ Julio Rodriguez looks to break out in finale vs. A’s

Julio Rodriguez

For weeks, the Seattle Mariners have talked about how close Julio Rodriguez is to breaking out of his slump.

But with the Mariners reaching the quarter pole of their season with Sunday afternoon’s game against visiting Oakland, they’re still waiting.

Rodriguez, who won American League Silver Slugger awards in his first two seasons in the majors, is batting .247 with one home run and 11 RBIs this season.

That’s a far cry from the player who hit 60 homers over his first two seasons and had a record-breaking performance in the opening round of the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in Seattle last summer.

Opponents have tended to pitch Rodriguez inside early in counts, then have gotten him to chase breaking pitches outside late.

“You have to earn your pitches to hit by laying off the bad ones,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “With Julio, it’s about staying aggressive, swinging at the right pitches and understanding how teams are going to pitch to him. … For me, it’s about making sure — what pitches are you looking for? And when you get a pitch in that zone, then just be Julio – be aggressive and take a whack at it.

“When he stays behind the ball, the ball goes in the air — and it’s electric.”

Rodriguez’s lone homer, which came April 23 at Texas, certainly qualified. The ball left his bat at 110.5 mph and reached the second deck in left-center field at Globe Life Park — an estimated 435 feet from home plate.

When he returned to the dugout, Rodriguez hugged the Mariners’ celebratory trident.

“It was ‘long time, no see’ to my good friend,” Rodriguez said at the time.

Rodriguez did hit a 110-mph liner back to the mound and was robbed of extra bases by a leaping catch at the right-field wall by Oakland’s Lawrence Butler in Saturday’s game. The A’s won 8-1, reversing the score from the series opener the previous night.

Rodriguez’s liner in the bottom of the first inning glanced off the glove and then the arm of Oakland starter Joey Estes. The right-hander recovered to throw out Rodriguez and allowed just one run on two hits over five innings for his first major league victory.

“You knew he was locked in when Julio’s line drive went off his biceps and I didn’t realize it,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “That kid, I don’t know how to describe him, really. You take a line drive like that off the biceps, and don’t have the trainers come out, don’t want it recognized. He came in the dugout and we finally got to him and it was already swollen.”

Estes was recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Las Vegas to make his first appearance of the season and the third of his career.

“That’s awesome,” Estes said. “I’ve worked my whole life to be able to say I got a win, so it’s definitely something I’m going to cherish.”

The A’s led just 2-1 after seven innings, but Max Schuemann hit a three-run double with two outs in the eighth after the Mariners intentionally loaded the bases and JJ Bleday added a two-run homer in a three-run ninth.

That gave the A’s just their second victory in 15 games against Seattle since the start of the 2023 season.

In Sunday’s series finale, Oakland left-hander Alex Wood (1-2, 5.30 ERA) is scheduled to go against Seattle right-hander Luis Castillo (3-5, 3.35).

Wood is 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA in two career appearances against the Mariners, including one start; Castillo is 3-2 with a 3.45 ERA in five starts vs. the A’s.

–Field Level Media

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