As rookie Julio Rodriguez began trotting around the bases, he turned toward the first base dugout, put his palms upward and shrugged to his Seattle Mariners teammates.
In his first appearance since the All-Star break, Rodriguez led off the bottom of the first inning by lining a home run down the left-field line, and Seattle went on to defeat the Texas Rangers 5-4 on Tuesday night.
The host Mariners will go for a sweep of the three-game series on Wednesday.
Rodriguez missed the previous four games with an ailing left wrist. He was injured on a stolen-base attempt July 14 at Texas, yet still competed in the Home Run Derby four days later. He received national attention by finishing second while launching 81 balls over the fence at Dodger Stadium.
Rodriguez said he joked with teammates before Tuesday’s game about hitting a leadoff homer.
“He takes a few days off, and his first time up he goes deep. Doesn’t really surprise me,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We talk about it a lot; he’s kind of got the ‘it’ factor. … We knew it early on, and now the rest of the baseball world is seeing it. A lot of fun to watch, just a ton of energy. Our team has a different vibe when he’s at the top of the lineup. … Glad to have him back in there.”
Catcher Cal Raleigh also homered for the Mariners. Raleigh doubled home the tying run in the ninth and scored the winner on Carlos Santana’s sacrifice fly.
“(Raleigh’s) having a lot of fun. … He’s helping us win games in different ways every night,” Servais said. “Some nights it’s with the bat. Some nights it’s calling the right pitches. Some nights it’s because he throws a runner out. Some nights it’s because his baserunning is pretty good.”
The Rangers rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the final two innings to take the lead.
Adolis Garcia hit a two-run double to tie it with two outs in the eighth on a check-swing grounder that hit in foul territory before spinning just inside the first-base bag and rolling two-thirds of the way down the right-field line.
Leody Taveras led off the ninth by slapping a two-strike single to the opposite field and scored on Ezequiel Duran’s bloop single down the right-field line to give the Rangers a 4-3 advantage.
But it didn’t last.
“It’s baseball. There’s been some weird bounces lately, and we honestly got really unlucky prior to (Garcia’s double),” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “We were kind of due for something like that. That was four (inches) foul and came back fair somehow, but at the end that’s why we’ve got to play all nine.”
Right-hander Jon Gray (7-4, 3.48 ERA) is scheduled to start the series finale for the Rangers against Mariners lefty Marco Gonzales (5-10, 3.74).
Gray, seeking his fourth straight win, is riding a 13-inning scoreless streak. He’s 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three career starts against Seattle, including a 6-2 defeat April 19 in Arlington, Texas.
Gonzales, who has allowed five earned runs in each of his past two starts, is 8-7 with a 3.95 ERA in 19 starts vs. the Rangers. He’s 0-1 in three tries against them this season.
–Field Level Media