The Brett Lawrie “Welcome To The Big Leagues” Festival arrived at its third and final stop here Monday in the Pacific Northwest, a two-hour drive from his Langley, B.C. roots.
Previously, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, Lawrie celebrated his debut in Baltimore 10 days ago with an RBI single in his first at-bat. Then he wowed the home fans in Toronto on the last homestand with a game-changing grand slam against the A’s, plus other heroics against the Angels.
Monday, his fellow Canadians made Safeco Field sound like it was Toronto’s home park, not Seattle’s, especially when he thumped a go-ahead home run leading off the fourth inning.
In the end, though, it was an all-too-familiar story as the Blue Jay bullpen coughed up the lead on back-to-back solo home runs in the eighth, the first by Mike Carp off Trever Miller to tie the game and the second, by Casper Wells off Jon Rauch to lose it 6-5.
Lawrie’s blast to left field was the third home run of the game for the Jays off Seattle’s outstanding rookie starter Michael Pineda. Earlier, Eric Thames and Adam Lind had each hit a two-run shot.
Henderson Alvarez was deprived of his first big-league win in his third start. Alvarez worked into the sixth inning after giving up three runs in the second on two hits, a walk, a hit batsman and a sacrifice fly. He also gave up a solo home run by Mike Carp in the third inning.
Jesse Litsch worked two clean innings of relief before the roof caved in on Miller and Rauch in the eighth.
In his first 15 starts with the Mariners, Pineda’s numbers shouted “Rookie-of-the-Year!” He had a 7-4 record with a 2.45 ERA, 94 strikeouts and just 27 walks in 95 innings with a .199 batting average against. But in his last eight starts, He’s gone 2-3 in 45 innings with an ERA of 6.55 and 22 walks. The Mariners have won only three of those eight starts.
It’s possible that Pineda’s innings buildup is catching up with him. He’s never pitched more than 139 innings in any season in the minors. He has already tossed 141 innings this year with Seattle and still might have as many as nine or 10 starts remaining, which could get him into the 180-190 range if the Mariners don’t back him off.
The Blue Jays always draw a sizeable and boisterous Vancouver crowd when they play in Seattle, often drowning out the Mariner faithful, if not in numbers, then by decibel level.
Monday, thousands of Canadian fans made the drive south to cheer on not just the Blue Jays but a favourite son, as well. All the attention might disorient many 21-year-olds but Lawrie has it all in perspective.
“I think once between the lines, it’s time to go,” said Lawrie when asked about all the distractions. “But you have to be humble, you have to be great to the fans, you have to be great to your teammates. One of the things is never forgetting where you came from, knowing your roots, trying to stay on that even plane, just remember who you are and be a good teammate and person.”
In his first 10 games with Toronto, Lawrie has made a serious impact. He has 12 hits in 34 at-bats, seven of them for extra bases and driven in eight runs. He has a .380 on-base percentage and an OPS of 1.104. He hit a pair of home runs, including his first career grand slam.
Most of the “firsts” that rookies can find so intimidating, have been dealt with. That includes his first errors. As a third baseman, Lawrie is still a work in progress. The key words there are ‘work’ and ‘progress.’ Lawrie’s coaches and Lawrie himself are constantly trying to address his transition.
Less than two weeks into his big-league career, Lawrie already feels at home.
“Yeah, I think so, I feel pretty good, I feel like I belong,” he said. “These guys make you feel like you belong. They’re behind you 100 per cent. All the fans are behind me as well, so that’s a big plus for me to have everyone in my corner. All I have to do after that is go out and compete. That’s all I got.”
Lawrie’s energy is contagious. The night last week when he belted a grand slam home run against the Oakland A’s, the Toronto dugout hasn’t had that much intensity in years as he pummeled his temmates with high-fives.
“That’s the way I’ve always been, I guess I’m wired that way,” he said. “It’s just always been something about me, I like to get fired up, I like to have fun, I like to play for these guys and when they get fired up and the crowd gets fired up, it gets me going.”
When it was suggested that the Lawrie Festival was finally coming to an end Monday, Farrell begged to differ.
“We hope it’s only starting,” he said.