PEORIA, Ariz. – Genuine “Whoa!” moments are fairly rare in spring training. Home runs that clear the batters’ eye in center field at Peoria Stadium are rarer still.
Cue up newcomer Rickie Weeks as the leadoff hitter in the bottom of third inning Saturday on a 1-1 change-up from Arizona lefty Andrew Chafin.
Weeks sent a soaring drive that cleared the 40-foot blue wall that serves as the batters’ eye. Cleared it easily. That wall is 410-plus feet from the plate.
“I kept waiting for the ball to hit the wall, hit the wall, hit the wall…,” center fielder Austin Jackson said. “Then…whoa!”
The facts: Weeks’ blast erased a 1-0 deficit, however, the Mariners blew a one-run lead to Arizona when another error by minor-league shortstop Tyler Smith opened the way to a two-run ninth inning. Justin Germano then gave up successive RBI doubles as the D-backs beat the M’s 4-3.
Justin Ruggiano’s three-run homer keyed a 14-hit attack in a slugfest victory for the day’s other Mariners squad over the Chicago White Sox in Glendale. The split left the Mariners with a 3-2 spring record.
Play of the day: Weeks eye-popping homer against the Diamondbacks that cleared the 40-foot batter’s eye in dead center field. That might turn out to be the play of the spring.
Plus: Hisashi Iwakuma opened his spring by retiring six straight hitters in the first two innings against Arizona while throwing 16 of 22 pitches for strikes. … Shortstop Brad Miller had two hits, including a double, against the White Sox. …. Ketel Marte went 2-for-3 with a stolen base after starting at second base against Chicago. … Chris Taylor started at short against Arizona and went 1-for-2 while handling three chances cleanly. … Carson Smith closed out the victory over the White Sox by pitching a scoreless ninth.
Minus: It wasn’t all positive for Marte; he committed his fifth error in three games. … Same for Miller, who booted a grounder for an error against the White Sox. … Smith’s error against the Diamondbacks came three days after his wild throw in the ninth inning resulted in an injury to first baseman Ji-Man Choi. … Right-hander Sam Gaviglio, acquired last November from the Cardinals for infielder Ty Kelly, gave up five runs on six hits and one walk in 1 2/3 innings against the White Sox.
Quotable: “I needed to work on a few things out of the set position,” said Hisashi Iwakuma, who threw 20 pitches in the bullpen after two perfect innings. “In the bullpen, I was able to do that.”
Up next: Veteran lefty J.A. Happ makes his first start as a Mariner today, at 1:05 p.m., against Cincinnati in Goodyear. All-Star closer Fernando Rodney is also scheduled to make his spring debut.
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