Rizzs optimistic on Mariners: ‘Be ready for that roller coaster ride’

Jun 27, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 10:07 am

seattle mariners rizzs playoffs...

Mike Ford #20 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his two run home run with the team's celebration tridentduring the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at T-Mobile Park on June 13, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Seattle is in the midst of preparing to host the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park July 11, and while the Mariners’ lineup has produced just one batter in the top five for fan voting within their position — Ty France ranks fifth in fan voting among American League second basemen — the team’s lead radio voice Rick Rizzs remains optimistic about the club’s chances in the second half of the season.

“You just got to strap yourself in and be ready for that roller coaster ride,” Rizzs said on The Gee & Ursula Show. “We went through it last year. All teams go through it. I’ve always said that. No matter how good or bad you are, every team is going to win 60 and lose 60. What do you do with the other 42 games? That’s what’s so critical. So they’re going to figure things out, and the hardest thing to do is be consistent in this game. And hopefully, the offense comes back to match the pitching.”

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Last season, when the Mariners broke the longest active playoff drought in North American sports, Seattle rattled off a 14-game win streak just before the All-Star break. Win streak aside, the club went 76-72, just a 0.03 win percentage difference from the team’s current standings this season.

“The pitching has been very, very good. The bullpen has been outstanding. The starters too,” Rizzs said. “So, hopefully, tonight the Mariners take advantage of the Washington Nationals ball club that’s in last place in the National League, but you can’t take anybody for granted. You still got to go out there and play some good baseball, and I look for this team to do that and battle back and get to the playoffs again.”

If the Mariners, currently seventh in the American League for a Wild Card spot, pull off a late-season surge and clinch a playoff spot, it would be just the second time the team made consecutive trips to the postseason in its 47-year history.

Finding offense on the fringes

Rizzs claimed the club’s offense needs to match the production from the pitching staff in order to turn the season around, and used Mike Ford, a 30-year-old DH who signed a one-year minor league deal with the Mariners for just $720,000, as an example of depth pieces stepping up.

“Mike Ford started the year down at Triple-A Tacoma, where he lit up the Pacific Coast League pitching like a video game,” Rizzs said. “And a couple of days ago, he had two huge home runs against the Orioles. One against Félix Bautista, one of the toughest relievers in all the baseball, throwing 102 miles an hour, and he turned around a 100-mile-an-hour fastball into a home run that tied the game. I think Mike Ford is going to give them that production that they need.”

In 49 games with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma, Ford batted .302 and logged 13 home runs and 56 RBIs. Ford played 11 games with Tacoma in 2022 as well.

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“But Jerry Dipoto, he doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He’s looking for any help. If there’s anybody out there that can help, he’s going to try to get it,” Rizzs added. “They still have a farm system that is produced so many young players. Right now in the big leagues, they still have a lot of talent down in the minor leagues. But you don’t want to give up the farm for a guy that you don’t think can help you get to the World Series and win it.”

Dipoto told Seattle Sports earlier this month the front office is heading into the trade deadline looking for an additional bat to help shore up the club’s offensive struggles. The Mariners are currently 17th in runs scored, 27th in batting average, and 28th in total hits.

All-Star Game festivities

This is the third time Seattle will host the MLB All-Star Game and the first in 22 years. The previous games were held in 1979 at the Kingdome and in 2001 at what was then known as Safeco Field.

Julio Rodríguez made history at last year’s Home Run Derby when he totaled 81 total home runs — the second-highest mark by a player all-time for a single event — before falling one home run short of current San Diego Padres star Juan Soto in the final round.

Despite struggling through a sophomore slump, Rodríguez was invited to participate in his second straight derby on July 10, this time with the Emerald City hosting the event as part of All-Star Week.

“People are critical of the derby because these guys put so much into it. It’s really taxing,” Rizzs said. “These guys take a lot of swings over and over and over again. But [Rodríguez] came close to winning last year, he hit a lot more home runs than Juan Soto. While it can be taxing, it’s something that Julio is looking forward to. It’s in his backyard this year, so I think he’s going to prepare for it and he knows what to expect. I think he’s going to be just fine.”

Rodríguez suffered a minor wrist injury while participating in last year’s All-Star events, causing slight concerns for fans about his durability during the home stretch of the season — one where the Mariners are 4.5 games out of the final AL Wild Card spot.

“I think the most important thing is that these guys can do it,” Rizzs said. “They just have to play the way they’re capable of playing and go out there and be themselves. Julio was outstanding last year. Ty France too. JP Crawford is back after missing three days with a sore shoulder and right down through that order, they just have to do what they’re capable of doing. And I think that’s going to be enough, but that being said, Jerry Dipoto likes to pull off a deal, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens by the end of July.”

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“Do you think Seattle is ready to have 100,000 visitors come through?” KIRO Newsradio host Ursula Reutin asked fill-in host Travis Mayfield.

“No, but here’s the thing. Seattle always steps up even when we’re not ready,” Mayfield replied. “There’s a civic-ness there, which I hope we haven’t lost, but over the years, the times that we’ve hosted giant things, I’ve never felt like we were ready for anything ever.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Rizzs optimistic on Mariners: ‘Be ready for that roller coaster ride’