An already interesting contest Monday night between division rivals Houston and Seattle got extra spicy in the top of the ninth inning when Astros reliever Héctor Neris hit Mariners first baseman Ty France in the back in a 5-4 game.
Julio Rodríguez homers after benches clear, Mariners beat Astros 7-4
After some confusion over whether France had indeed been hit by the pitch that whizzed behind his back (he was), plenty of words were exchanged between the two teams and ultimately the benches cleared, resulting in Mariners manager Scott Servais and Astros first base coach Omar Lopez both being ejected.
A few pitches after things settled down, Julio Rodríguez hit a two-run homer to extend Seattle’s lead to 7-4. Two batters later, Neris threw a pitch near Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez’s head, and he was tossed as well as Houston manager Dusty Baker as a warning had already been issued in the inning.
And now Eugenio Suárez is nearly hit by a pitch, up and in, and Hector Neris has been tossed: pic.twitter.com/FCjc481MjM
– Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) June 7, 2022
The Mariners came away with the win and were clearly fired up about the altercation, and Mike Salk of Seattle Sports thinks that two things in particular stood out from Seattle’s side of the incident.
The first? The actions of Servais, who was extremely upset with the Astros after France was hit in the back.
“At the core is Scott Servais being like,‘ I’m not gonna take any more of their stupid you-know-what, ’” Salk said during Tuesday’s Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM.
The two teams also had a bit of an altercation last season when then-Houston reliever Brooks Raley hit JP Crawford with a pitch shortly after giving up a go-ahead grand slam to Dylan Moore that capped off a massive Seattle comeback. The bad blood came back on Monday, with Servais in particular very angry at Houston.
“All I know is our best hitter is in there,” Servais said after the game about France being hit, “it’s two out in the ninth and you throw the first pitch behind him. It’s pretty obvious. “
Salk was glad to see Servais’ reaction.
“He clearly saw red, he clearly was mad, he clearly had just had quite enough of the Astros and their antiques, and I thought it was great,” Salk said. “I love the way he handled it and I love the way the team responded. I think those moments are incredibly important for bonding, for teams to come together, and (they’re) so much better when you end up winning the game the way they did last night. “
Salk thinks the Mariners need to keep winning in order to make this a “legitimate rivalry,” but he believes Seattle is “doing everything the right way” unlike the first-place Astros.
“I loved what happened last night. I thought they handled it perfectly. Good on them, ”he said. “I thought the Astros and specifically Dusty Baker ended up looking… pathetic. Absolutely, full-on pathetic. ”
“These guys are being ridiculous,” Salk added. “I thought Scott handled it perfectly and just said,‘ Hey, you do the math. It’s a one-run game. Yeah, OK, fine. But there’s two outs in the ninth and you throw behind my best hitter. And then a few minutes later, after you give up a home run, you’re gonna throw over the dude’s head? Come on. What a complete joke show you are. ‘”
When the benches cleared, Rodríguez, a rookie, was seen holding Neris to prevent him from getting into it with members of the Mariners. Once the dust had settled, though, Rodríguez took Neris deep to the right field. That was the biggest moment of the entire altercation, Salk said.
“None of it has the long-term implications that this does,” Salk said.
What that home run showed is that the 21-year-old center fielder has “a sense for the moment,” according to Salk.
– Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 7, 2022
“If you don’t think that last night’s home run foretold the future, I’m going to just disagree with you because I think it did,” he said. “I think that having Julio Rodríguez understand when to bring out that power, when the moment dictates he step up, (that) foretells the future. He hasn’t had an opportunity yet to be in a playoff-type moment. He hasn’t had the opportunity yet to be in September with the crowd going crazy and an opportunity to put a team on his back and come up with the big hit in the big moment. He doesn’t know what any of that means because he hasn’t been there yet. “
Salk called Monday night “the biggest moment” in Rodríguez’s young career.
“The benches had just cleared in a Mariners-Astros situation against the first-place team that’s bully on the block, that’s headhunting on your team,” Salk said. “Your manager has just gotten himself kicked out of the game for screaming at the opposing first base coach. You yourself were the guy who just grabbed their pitcher who started the whole thing and ushered him off to the side. And what do you do? You don’t just clobber it to left field, you don’t just pull a home run down the line, you go the other way with just ridiculous opposite-field power for a huge home run in that spot. I’m sorry, that foretells the future. That’s the Julio Rodríguez that we are going to get. ”
Rodríguez’s big-time moment further reiterated what Salk wrote in a recent SeattleSports.com column, stating that Rodríguez will be the reason the Mariners end their playoff drought in the near future.
“Julio Rodríguez will bring this team to the playoffs, and last night was just further proof of why,” he said. “… The best players, the most clutch players, the greatest of all-time in those moments step up. They swing a little bit differently and they rise to the occasion, which is exactly what Julio Rodríguez did last night. It was awesome. ”
You can hear the full segment from Tuesday’s Mike Salk Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below.
Salk: How Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez, Diego Castillo are standing out right now