Seattle Mariners: Edwin Encarnación’s Big Day Out
The Mariners hopped on the parrot to salvage the series finale against the Twins.
It’s been a rough weekend for Seattle. Going into Sunday afternoon’s finale of a four-game set with the Twins, they had been outscored 36-11. Disaster on multiple fronts, as Minnesota put the evident talent gap between the two teams on fully display.
But baseball is weird sometimes. Scoring enough to fund two sweeps through the first three games, the Twins felt destined for a date with some brooms.
For the first time in this series, however, matchups favored the Mariners. With Yusei Kikuchi on the mound, coming off a trio of brilliant starts versus Cleveland, New York, and Oakland, the Mariners finally brought the Twins’ offense back down to Earth.
Kikuchi wasn’t as sharp as his past three starts, initially struggling with the command of both his breaking balls. A pair of errors, including one by Kikuchi on an awkward bunt, afforded Minnesota three runs in the bottom of the fifth, all but one of which wound up unearned.
The 27-year-old rookie came back out in the sixth and looked the best he had all day, striking out two and recording the third and final out on a strange batter interference call on Luis Arráez.
Kikuchi has shown exponential growth as a Major Leaguer since his abbreviated start against Texas a few weeks back. It’s still hard to tell what the Mariners exactly have in him, but whatever it is, it feels special.
For as well as Kikuchi battled, however, he was far from the Mariners’ most valuable player on the field today. That would instead be Edwin Encarnación, who, at the spry age of 36, had a masterful day both offensively and defensively.
Encarnación’s second inning diving grab of a Willians Astudillo infield fly was the highlight of the day. But Encarnación wasn’t done, following up the web gem with another masterful play in foul territory to lead off the third.
While the offense has been Encarnación’s biggest selling point, he’s secretly been an incredibly sturdy first baseman for most of the year. Encarnación’s success is especially impressive given that he’s already made eight more starts at first base than he did last year and the year before that.
The sudden rise in defensive value has now made his potential trade market a lot wider, as interest from National League teams should now be expected on some level. This is a very, very good thing for the Mariners.
Encarnación’s bat and imaginary parrot friend did make a major appearance in this game as well, putting a stamp of the Mariners’ win with a three-run bomb in the bottom of the seventh. It was crushed, and so were the broomstick dreams of the Minnesota Twins.
To end an otherwise brutal weekend on a high note was nice to see. Now, it’s time for Game of Thrones. Tomorrow, the Mariners head back on the road and look to carry the faint momentum of today’s win into Arlington. Should be fun. Yee-haw.