It appears Julio Rodriguez is snapping out of his sophomore slump.
The American League's reigning Rookie of the Year extended his hitting streak to six games as the Seattle Mariners defeated the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates 5-0 Saturday.
The teams will wrap up their three-game interleague series Sunday in Seattle.
Rodriguez has multiple hits in five of the past six games (going 12-for-25 with five extra-base hits), raising his season batting average from .204 to .238. Not coincidentally, the Mariners have won five games in that span.
"Julio is starting to heat up as the weather is heating up, which is a really good sign," Mariners manager Scott Servais said.
After going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs Friday night in an 11-6 loss, Rodriguez again had two hits Saturday, including a run-scoring double.
Rodriguez manufactured a run with his legs in the seventh inning after grounding a leadoff single into center field. He stole second and advanced to third on catcher Jason Delay's throwing error. Rodriguez scored on Eugenio Suarez's sacrifice fly to center field, a video challenge determining he just beat the throw to the plate after originally being called out.
"A huge stolen base," Servais said. "You're up 4-0 and everyone says, 'Ah, we got this under control.' That's a big run in the game. He gets to third and then the sac fly. He absolutely did the right thing when sliding in. So many times you see guys slide in and they try to avoid the tag and stick their hand in there. And in that situation, they're out the majority of time. You slide right through the catcher, right at the base."
After tying a franchise record with seven home runs in the series opener, the Pirates managed just two hits Saturday and struck out 17 times.
But even more concerning for the Pirates was the health of right-hander Vince Velasquez, who was making his first appearance since May 4 after a stint on the injured list with elbow inflammation.
Velasquez lasted just two innings, giving up four runs on seven hits, before the elbow started bothering him again.
"Just watching him at the end of the second, he just didn't look like he was comfortable," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. "Having a conversation with him, it just didn't feel like he was in the best spot, so we decided to take him out."
The series finale is scheduled to feature Pittsburgh right-hander Luis Ortiz (1-2, 4.02 ERA) against Seattle lefty Marco Gonzales (4-1, 5.68).
Ortiz will make his fourth start after opening the season in Triple-A Indianapolis. He pitched 7 2/3 innings against Texas in his last outing, allowing two runs on five hits on Monday to earn his first career MLB victory. He'll face the Mariners for the first time in his career.
Gonzales gave up two runs over six innings in his last start, a 3-2 victory against Oakland on Tuesday. Gonzales is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one previous start against the Pirates.
--Field Level Media