Seattle Mariners

‘That guy is a gamer.’ Kyle Lewis ignites comeback, Mariners walk off against White Sox

Kyle Lewis has made some kind of entrance his first week in the majors. The Seattle Mariners rookie, who was promoted from Double-A Arkansas last Tuesday, has played just six games, but is already rewriting records.

Sunday afternoon at T-Mobile Park, he became the first player in franchise history to collect four homers in his first six career games, crushing a three-run shot to straightaway center in the eighth that keyed a late Mariners comeback in an 11-10 walk-off win over the White Sox.

He’s also the first Mariner to ever notch nine RBI in his first six appearances. He’s 9-for-25 with six extra-base hits, has hit safely in five of six games, and had answers at the plate when Seattle needed them the most.

“It’s been cool,” Lewis said. “I was just trying to see how things go, trying to get the flow of it, and give it my best shot every day. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais, and many of Lewis’ teammates, have the same reaction when asked about the 24-year-old prospect — he’s been really fun to watch this past week.

“That guy is a gamer, and I’m glad that he’s up her on our team” Mariners starter Justus Sheffield said. “It’s fun to watch.”

Lewis’ homer, which was part of a 3-for-6 afternoon, came in the eighth, and sparked a dugout trying to make up for a five-run deficit. Shed Long opened the inning with a single, and Austin Nola — who was 4-for-5 — walked before Kyle Seager drove Long in with a base hit. Then came the 420-foot rocket from Lewis which trimmed Chicago’s lead to a single run.

Daniel Vogelbach walked, as did Tim Lopes, and pinch runner Keon Broxton wheeled his way around from second, sliding ahead of an off-line throw to tie the game at 10-10 on a Mallex Smith bloop single.

In the ninth, the Mariners loaded the bases with one out on singles from Nola and Lewis, and an intentional walk by pinch hitter Dee Gordon. Tom Murphy eventually drew a walk-off walk to secure the win.

“Certainly that September rule is in play with all of the players,” Servais said. “The pitching changes and the matching up and all of that other stuff, it just gets crazy this time of year. But, give our guys a ton of credit. We’re down 10-5, it’s a mid-September game, and we have a lot of young guys that have a lot to prove.

“They just don’t give up and it’s fun to watch them go out and play. They’re learning along the way. Days like today, you can really take something from it.”

What was shaping up to be the best start Sheffield’s young career went sideways in the fifth inning Sunday, when he allowed all six of his runs (five earned) before leaving the game with just one out.

This after the first four innings allowed the Mariners to peek into their future, and see a challenging left-hander who could soon anchor their starting rotation. Sheffield, who turned 23 in May, and entered the season as Seattle’s top prospect, struck out the first four batters he faced.

Tim Anderson chased a high fastball. Yoan Moncada watched one go by. Jose Abreu and Eloy Jiminez whiffed on Sheffield’s slider — which generated eight of his 14 swinging strikes against Chicago. And, mind you, these weren’t easy outs. Entering Sunday, these four had a combined 99 homers, 309 RBI and were averaging between .254-.333 at the plate this season.

But, Sheffield sat each of them right back down, and retired 10 consecutive batters before Moncada broke through with a single in the fourth. Sheffield allowed another base hit in the inning, but coolly struck out two more to retire the side, bringing his total to a career-high eight.

“It was really good for four innings,” Servais said. “That’s the best we’ve seen Justus Sheffield, no question about it.”

Sheffield watched from the dugout for the next half-hour as the Mariners tore up White Sox starter Ivan Nova, tagging him with five runs on six hits in the fourth.

Lewis opened the inning with a double, Vogelbach walked, and Tom Murphy, Dylan Moore, Donnie Walton and Smith strung together consecutive singles to give Seattle a 3-0 lead. Nola tacked on two more runs in the inning with another RBI single.

It was enough to give Sheffield a comfortable cushion, but the long wait threw off the game’s early pace, and his near-perfect start unraveled minutes later.

He issued his only walk to Jimenez to lead off the fifth, and a fielding error on Nola at first allowed Zack Collins to reach. Adam Engel then ambushed a slider, sending a three-run shot to the bleachers in left.

Three consecutive singles, including a run-scoring line drive to left by Abreu, knocked Sheffield out of the game after 82 pitches — including 30 in the fifth — though he was clinging to a 5-4 lead at that point.

“We want to score as much as we can, so that’s going to consist of me being in the dugout a little bit longer,” Sheffield said. “We were able to put up five, and I didn’t do my job. That’s what it boils down to. I’ve got to put up a zero right there, especially with the team coming out and swinging it like that.”

Instead of his first career win, he was in line for his second loss two batters after his exit, though the Mariners eventually remedied that.

“A lot of good signs from Sheff today, and he’ll learn from it, and be better next time out for it,” Servais said.

Jimenez singled off reliever Brandon Brennan to load the bases, and Castillo cranked a grand slam to left center to cap an eight-run inning for the White Sox. It was the first time in eight appearances since returning from a months-long shoulder injury Brennan allowed a run.

Chicago tacked on two more runs in the seventh off Zac Grotz, on a Jimenez double and Castillo sac fly to make it 10-5.

Dan Altavilla pitched a scoreless sixth for the Mariners with a pair of strikeouts, Taylor Gilbeau tossed a speedy eighth, and Austin Adams struck out the side in the ninth.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.
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