For sheer electricity, it didn’t match the two-run homer rookie Julio Rodriguez belted off Justin Verlander on Friday night.
But Kyle Lewis’ two-run shot later in the first inning was much more meaningful.
Lewis’ homer came one day shy of a year since his last in the major leagues, helping the Seattle Mariners escape the American League West cellar with a 6-1 victory against the first-place Houston Astros.
The AL West rivals are scheduled to meet again Saturday night in the second contest of a three-game series.
“I am happy for Kyle,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s a struggle when you are out that long and you don’t know when you are going to get back. When he hits them, you know they are gone. It’s got that kind of thump.”
Lewis, the AL’s Rookie of the Year in 2020, sustained a torn meniscus in his right knee while trying to make a catch last May 31 against Oakland. His 2021 season was over after playing in just 36 games.
He made his season debut Tuesday against the Athletics.
“Definitely a lot of emotions,” Lewis said of his return. “I’ve had a lot of things to deal with as far as the rehab process, countless hours. There’s been a lot of steps to it.
“I’ve just been trying to take every day in stride and enjoy the moments because it puts it into perspective when you have to deal with so many things. I’ve always tried to enjoy the journey.”
Lewis will serve as the Mariners’ designated hitter, although Servais hasn’t ruled out a return to the field.
For now, he’s just happy to pencil Lewis’ name into the lineup.
“It’s exciting to have him back. It’s been a long time,” Servais said. “He has worked his tail off to be back here. It hasn’t been easy. Lot of bumps in the road along the way, but I know he’s excited.”
The Mariners used an aggressive approach against Verlander and it worked, as they hit four home runs — three on the first pitch of the at-bat.
“We’ve faced him enough times to know that runs are hard to come by,” Lewis said. “So just trying to be aggressive as possible. That’s one thing we preached in the pregame and try to really go out and execute. It’s actually a good job of seeing the pregame transition into the game.”
Said Verlander: “I think I made a lot of really hittable pitches and just needed to execute a little bit better.”
Right-hander Jose Urquidy (4-1, 4.24 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Astros on Saturday.
He’s coming off a 5-2 victory Sunday against visiting Texas. He allowed just one run on six hits in 6 2/3 innings and matched his career high with 10 strikeouts.
“He was great,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He had excellent control, had a good breaking ball, and his changeup was active, where it usually is.
“This was the furthest he’s gone in a game (this season). Most pitchers, on their side and our side, are starting to get to that 90-100 (pitch count). He had real good stuff.”
Urquidy is 1-1 with a 5.16 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against Seattle.
The Mariners are set to counter with right-hander Logan Gilbert (4-2, 2.60), who is winless over his past four starts after winning his previous four.
Gilbert is 0-1 with a 7.07 ERA in three career starts against the Astros.
–Field Level Media