Earth Day isn’t for another few weeks yet but the Mariners got a head start on it by harnessing the power of the wind in a 6-3 victory against the Royals. Spring Training is its own beast, and its always fun when the environment decides to show up as a tenth player on the field (fun for us, I guess. Probably less fun to play in). Today the wind in Peoria was blowing out with a fierceness, but thankfully the Mariners had made the proper overtures to Njord, the Norse god of sea and winds, who especially helps out (or hurts) sailors.
The always-respectful Ljay Newsome clearly was on Njord’s good side today, breezing through three innings of work while giving up just one hit, a piddly little infield single Sam Haggerty couldn’t quite make a play on. Ljay helped himself out by showing excellent command, pounding the zone; 25 of his 39 pitches were strikes. His fastball sat around 93 mph and he struck out four, including Royals phenom Bobby Witt Jr., he of the towering home runs. Despite getting three outs via flyball, Njord made sure those balls stayed in the park.
The Mariners offense propped up Ljay’s efforts, scoring the majority of their runs right off the bat in the bottom of the first. Leading off the game, Dylan Moore leaned on Njord a little to help a ball over the fence, but since it came off the bat with a 104 EV it probably didn’t need too much help. France is one of Europe’s leaders in wind power but Ty France didn’t need any help with a no-doubt homer that cleared the fence easily (107 mph EV). Kyle Lewis continued to help ruin Danny Duffy’s day with a Njord-aided triple (“triple”) and then White’s good buddy Evan White sacrificed him home. Tom Murphy tried to keep the good times rolling with a double but Sam Haggerty obviously needs to brush up on his Norse mythology as he flew out to end the inning.
Here’s all the fun in one clip if you want to see it:
Dylan Moore— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 9, 2021
Tom Murphy ✌️ pic.twitter.com/v2eklcei0n
In the second, Njord must have gotten up to get a hot dog or something, because Ty France just missed his second home run on the day, but he did manage this 107 mph EV double, scoring Jake Fraley, who had walked and then taken second on a wild pitch. Njord got back in time to see his favorite player Kyle Lewis hit a popup that went into the books as an RBI single thanks to a combination of the wind and some good old-fashioned Spring Training Sky (STS).
And here's his RBI double in his second at-bat that nearly cleared the fence: pic.twitter.com/JTW9TLWN1d— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) March 9, 2021
(“You know how to get a Spring Training RBI, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.”)
The Royals got on the board in the fourth when Gerson Bautista, after getting two quick outs from Nouveau Royals Andrew Benintendi and Carlos Santana, gave up a single to Perez and then made a mistake pitch to the ever-dangerous Jorge Soler, who might not have an in with the Norse wind-god but has his own source of radiant heat. The real bad news of that inning, though, was Luis Torrens took a sharp foul ball off the knee and though he stuck it out for the inning, he was lifted after. Hopefully it was just precautionary; we’ll keep an eye on the injury report and hope Torrens doesn’t pop up on it.
The Mariners answered back in the bottom of the fourth when they loaded the bases against Tyler Zuber (not Zyler Tuber, a heritage vegetable grown by the Pennsylvania Dutch) on a single (Walton) and two walks (Moore and viva la France). Kyle Lewis hit a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 6-2, but the Mariners weren’t able to stack up more damage than that in the inning, nor would they be able to add any additional runs in the back half of the contest. If only Ty France could hit every at-bat. Sacre bleu!
Luckily it didn’t matter, as Mariners pitching only gave up one more run over the rest of the afternoon. Taylor Guerrieri had a couple of bad-wind-luck balls drop in against him and a runner reached third, but was able to rebound for a groundout to end the inning. He also had two strikeouts. The ball similarly misbehaved for Brady Lail, with Salvador Perez sneaking an infield hit past Walton and a field error for the normally sure-handed Jordan Cowan costing him a double play (Cowan, remember, hasn’t played in an organized baseball game in over a year, as he wasn’t an alternate training site invitee nor was he at the fall development league). Lail managed to escape the inning unscathed though, and also struck Carlos Santana out swinging. Jimmy Yacabonis also escaped any damage despite giving up some hard contact in a sharp lineout handled by Jantzen Witte and a deep flyout to Bobby Witt Jr. that sounded like it had home run potential before Njord slapped it down like a generous friend insisting on paying for lunch. Good guy, that Njord. Mariners pitching struck out nine Royals today, with Newsome, Guerrieri, and Matt Magill, who worked a very quick 1-2-3 inning against the Royals’ second line with two Ks, combining for seven of them.
The only other damage off Mariners pitching came off Ian McKinney, working the ninth. After getting a groundout from Freddy Fermin (who Rizzs definitely called Felix Fermin), Royals prospect Seuly Matias swung at McKinney’s first offering for a line drive single. Kelvin Gutierrez then hit what should have been the second out of the inning but Luis Liberato had it escape his grasp at the last moment. Njord, what the heck, man?! McKinney, who was mixing his pitches well all inning, rebounded to get a strike three looking, but then issued a walk to load the bases and a wild pitch brought a run home. That would be it on the day, though, as McKinney induced a groundout off the bat of Bubba Starling to close out the game and give Njord—and us—some much-needed time off.
The Mariners are back at it tomorrow afternoon, same bat-time and channels, for the last untelevised game before a four-game stretch of games on TV. Games on TV! What a concept.