|Crawford, M's look to salvage series sweep vs. A's|
When asked about the play of shortstop J.P. Crawford, Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais referenced another sport.
"J.P. wants to be in the batter's box, he wants the ball hit to him, he wants the ball in his hands," Servais said. "He's like the point guard of our defense. He's been really good here early in the season."
Crawford's glove has always been his calling card, what got him to the majors at age 22 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
It seems his bat might be starting to catch up.
Entering Monday's series finale against the visiting Oakland Athletics at T-Mobile Park, the Mariners' new leadoff hitter is batting .333 and shares the major league lead in triples (two) and runs scored (10). His on-base percentage of .455 ranks 15th in the majors and sixth in the American League.
He was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance Sunday and although he was forced out at second, the Mariners scored a run in the inning. Servais might say that deserves an assist.
Crawford, acquired by Seattle with first baseman Carlos Santana in a December 2018 trade for shortstop Jean Segura and relievers James Pazos and Juan Nicasio, credits his workouts during the three months baseball was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic with helping him at the plate.
He set up his own makeshift batting cage in the living room of his new house in Peoria, Ariz., near the Mariners' spring training complex.
"Got a whole net and tee. Bucket of balls," Crawford told The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash. "You've got to do what you've got to do."
Crawford and the Mariners are set to face Oakland right-hander Frankie Montas (0-1, 3.00 ERA) in the series finale. Montas was named Monday's starter after Daniel Mengden was sent to the bullpen and top prospect Jesus Luzardo was moved into the rotation, with his first start scheduled for Tuesday at home. Montas is 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA in five career appearances against the Mariners, including two starts.
The Mariners will counter with left-hander Justus Sheffield (0-1, 12.00). Sheffield didn't get a decision in his only previous start against the A's, allowing one run in five innings last season.
After losing the series opener, the A's have posted back-to-back 3-2 victories.
Ramon Laureano hit a three-run homer Sunday to provide all the offense the A's would need.
After 5 2/3 strong innings from right-hander Chris Bassitt, the bullpen did the rest, allowing one run -- a solo shot by Kyle Lewis -- on two hits in 3 1/3 innings. Liam Hendriks struck out the side in the ninth for his third save.
Oakland's relievers have a combined 1.79 ERA this season.
"They've been great and keeping us in every single game," Laureano said of the bullpen. "Now, we just gotta hit the ball on the barrel and find some holes."
While the A's are batting an AL-worst .188 as a team, Laureano improved his average to .290 with two homers and seven RBIs.
"He's arguably our best hitter right now and he did what he was supposed to do," Bassitt said. "If he gets a hit there, that's great. But a home run is a whole different ball game. It changed the whole complexion of the game. That was a big sigh of relief for everybody."
--Field Level Media