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Reds series shows what to expect from next year's M's

The Cincinnati Reds are not an intimidating team, but they are Major Leaguers and just a few days ago many of the Seattle Mariners were not. So taking two of three in this Interleague matchup is meaningful, in a couple of ways.

First, the Mariners needed something good. They'd just come from being humiliated by the Houston Astros and pasted by the Chicago Cubs. So wins are welcome and can only help morale. More significantly, though, we got a little taste of the future.

It being September, and it being before next year's new rule curtails September callups, the M's fielded some new blood fresh from the minor leagues. And not from Triple-A Tacoma, but from the next level down, Double-A Arkansas. Donnie Walton, Justin Dunn, Art Warren, and most notably Kyle Lewis all made their Major League debuts in this series before seeing any action at all at the Triple-A level. Most will probably see Triple-A next season, but Lewis, Seattle's first-round draft selection in 2016, has made a statement in his first three games and wants to stay in the bigs.

The Mariners battled the Reds pretty well, coming back from deficits in all three contests. In Tuesday night's game, Reds starter Trevor Bauer was in fine form and held Seattle scoreless until the fifth inning and leading 1-0. That's when Lewis started making noise, though—the 24-year-old outfielder crushed a Bauer offering into the bullpens to tie the score at 1-1. Dylan Moore would homer in the next inning to give the M's a short-lived lead before Cincinnati came back against reliever Austin Adams with a two-run bomb in the seventh. But the Mariners weren't done, and in the bottom of the eighth Austin Nola drew a two-out walk in front of Kyle Seager, who got in on the homer party with a two-run shot of his own. 4-3 Seattle, with Anthony Bass coming in to pitch the ninth. The latest Mariner reliever to get a tryout in the closer's role, Bass notched his third save with a 1-2-3 inning. Justus Sheffield started this one for the Mariners and had perhaps his best game yet, pitching six full innings and leaving with the lead, allowing just one run thanks to a plethora of double-plays (OK, four probably doesn't constitute a plethora, but it seemed like a lot) behind him.

Wednesday it was again Mr. Lewis to start things off. Cincinnati starter Sonny Gray was dominating the M's, no-hitting them through six innings and leading 2-0. But in the seventh, Nola led off by getting hit by a pitch and then Seager walked. After a lineout from Omar Narváez, up came Lewis. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Lewis blasted another home run, this one to the opposite field. That put the M's on top and after the next batter, Daniel Vogelbach, hit a grounder for just the second base-hit of the night for the M's, Gray's otherwise splendid outing was over. Gray's line of three earned runs in 613 innings belies his brilliance for six full frames, when he faced one batter over the minimum. Lewis' homer made a winner out of Marco Gonzales, who finally notched his 15th victory of the year in his 16th quality start. The Mariners would tack on two more runs in the eighth on their way to a 5-3 win, with Bass once again getting the save despite wild-pitching an inherited runner in to score.

Thursday's finale didn't end as well, but again the M's showed some fight. Justin Dunn got the start as an "opener," making his debut in front of "headliner" Tommy Milone, but debut nerves and some command issues made it a game to forget; Dunn didn't survive the first inning, allowing no hits but walking five. Zac Grotz put out the fire, but Cincy had a 2-0 lead. But in the bottom of the second inning, the M's tied it up thanks to, yep, Kyle Lewis, who doubled leading off the frame, and Moore, who whacked another home run into the Mariners' bullpen. Home-run derby continued in the third when Narváez went deep with Seager aboard for his 20th longball of the season, and in the fifth, guess who—Mr. Lewis again—hit a screaming meanie 457 feet to left-center field. Three games, three home runs. Lewis is just the second big-leaguer to do that (Trevor Story was he first). However: as we rejoice in the success of the young Mariner hitters, we also must contend with the young Mariner relievers. After Milone set down 11 in a row and 14 of 16 Reds, manager Scott Servais pulled him in favor of Dan Altavilla. Now, to be fair, Altavilla has impressed lately, allowing zero runs in four appearances since his return to action September 1st. But this night he seemed to revert to his early-season form, which is to say throwing meatballs to the plate. His first pitch of the night was hammered to the left-field wall for a double, the next batter walked despite two pitches right down the middle (one of which probably should have been called strike three, but you know, umps), and then Freddy Galvis crushed a fat slider over the right-field wall for a grand slam and a 7-5 Reds lead. Matt Wisler—who has not impressed lately—took over for Altavilla in the 8th and served up not one, but two two-run homers on fat sliders. The M's wouldn't come back from that, mustering only a double from Narváez the rest of the way, and the game would end 11-5 Cincinnati.

Performances by September callups are rarely reliable guides to their future successes; we all remember Jeremy Reed, right? But this series showed us some real promise from Kyle Lewis. With fellow prospect Jake Fraley done for the year due to a ligament strain, Lewis should see a lot of action the rest of the way and it'll be interesting to see if he can keep it up. If he does, and if the M's think he can make next year's club out of spring training, it might spell the end of Domingo Santana's Mariner tenure. We'll probably see Santana get some ABs in the final days of the season after he recovers from his elbow injury, but he's likely destined for an offseason trade. (Hopefully for better pitching.)

Mariners vs. Reds, by the numbers

  • Total runs scored: 31 (SEA 14, CIN 17)
  • Home runs hit: 12 (SEA 7, CIN 5)
  • Bases stolen/attempts: 6/8 (SEA 3 - Nola, Smith, Lopes; CIN 3)
  • Errors committed: 1 (CIN 1)
  • Quality starts: 4 (SEA 2 - Sheffield, Gonzales; CIN 2 - Bauer, Gray)
  • Pitching changes: 20 (SEA 13, CIN 7)
  • Starters ERA (includes “openers”): 4.25 (SEA 3.29, CIN 5.06)
  • Bullpen ERA (includes “headliners”): 6.45 (SEA 8.10, CIN 4.50)
  • Runners left on base: 35 (SEA 14, CIN 21)
  • MLB debuts: 4

Late-season Callups

Of the Mariners recently promoted from the minors, who are you most interested in seeing play?

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