Mariners' Smith suddenly a real steal vs. Rangers
Mallex Smith was such a major disappointment in late April that he was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma.
Now the 26-year-old center fielder is displaying signs of igniting the Seattle offense as the Mariners entertain the Texas Rangers on Tuesday in the middle contest of a three-game set.
On Monday, Smith matched the franchise record of four steals -- the eighth time it has happened -- including steals of second, third and home in the eighth inning of Seattle's 6-2 victory over Texas.
The triumph halted the Mariners' six-game losing streak and came in Smith's second two-hit outing in eight games since returning to the club on May 16.
"Just trying to stay within myself," Smith said in a postgame television interview with ROOT Sports. "I know I have been swinging pretty hard early in the year. ... Now I'm just trying to simplify my swings and get a pitch I can drive -- and don't miss it."
Mariners manager Scott Servais was glad to see Smith provide a spark. Monday's effort was more in line of what Seattle was expecting when it acquired Smith in the offseason deal that sent catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays.
"It's great to see Mallex get going," Servais said after the contest. "I've never seen it before. I've never seen anybody steal three bases in one inning. It was great. Good for him, get a little momentum and confidence going there."
Seattle's Daniel Vogelbach also provided a highlight with a soaring two-run homer into the upper deck in right. According to the team, it was just the third homer to reach the top level in the ballpark's history, with Mo Vaughn of the Anaheim Angels (1999) and Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays (2001) being the other players.
The venue opened midway through the 1999 season as Safeco Field and changed names to T-Mobile Park for this season.
Texas has dropped three straight games after winning its previous five. The Rangers had defeated the Mariners five straight times prior to Monday's loss.
Right-hander Adrian Sampson, who grew up in the Seattle area, will be the primary Texas pitcher on Tuesday after veteran right-hander Jesse Chavez (0-1, 4.55 ERA) serves as the "opener."
That combination worked well against the Mariners on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas, where the Rangers prevailed 2-1.
Chavez pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, with Sampson (2-3, 4.44 ERA) following and allowing one run and four hits over 5 1/3 innings. Sampson struck out five and walked none.
It was the second straight appearance in which Sampson earned the win as the second Texas pitcher. He gave up two runs (one earned) and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings while getting the decision against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 17.
Sampson is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in three career appearances (one start) against the Mariners. Tuesday's game will mark the third time he has pitched in Seattle.
"It's an environment I'm used to," Sampson told ROOT Sports prior to Monday's game. "I've been in this park a lot growing up and now playing in it, I can get a little more comfortable.
"There are still a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, so it puts me at ease. ... I get a lot of energy from it."
Seattle left-hander Marco Gonzales (5-4, 3.41 ERA) will start Tuesday. He has dropped four straight decisions while going winless over his past five starts.
Gonzales was 5-0 after blanking the Rangers over seven innings on April 25. He matched his career best of nine strikeouts, walked none and allowed six hits.
Since that outing, he has fanned just 14 in 23 2/3 innings and has pitched five or fewer innings on three occasions.
Gonzales is 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA in seven career starts vs. Texas.
Rangers slugger Joey Gallo (4-for-13) has two homers against Gonzales. Other Texas players who have fared well against him include Shin-Soo Choo (5-for-10), Hunter Pence (4-for-8, one homer) and Elvis Andrus (4-for-11).
--Field Level Media
Updated May 28, 2019