Mariners notes: Locklear doubles in roller-coaster debut, Woo silences Oakland again

For three-plus innings of unrelenting offense, it appeared as if the Mariners had fused their premier starting pitching with an offense that finally turned a pivotal corner in Friday night’s series opener with the Royals in Kansas City – until all of it completely unraveled.

By the conclusion of a merciless first inning at Kauffman Stadium, the Mariners had jumped Royals southpaw Daniel Lynch IV for seven total runs, their most in the first inning of any game since 2018. The barrage featured RBI doubles from Mitch Haniger and new-addition Victor Robles before Ryan Bliss capped the early onslaught with his first major league home run, a no-doubt, two-run blast to left center.

By the fourth, Seattle had stretched its lead to eight.

But what the Mariners failed to do was deliver the knockout punch.

The royal comeback arrived in gradual spurts. Royals left fielder MJ Melendez plated three on a fourth-inning homer before Kansas City added three runs in the sixth and ninth innings.

In possession of a 9-7 lead in the ninth, Mariners reliever Ryne Stanek issued three walks and two hits that lifted the Royals to an unthinkable, come-from-behind, 10-9 win in Friday’s opener. Seattle intentionally walked both Vinnie Pasquantino and Salvador Perez to load the bases with one out, and Nelson Velazquez walked off the rally with a fielder’s choice when Seattle’s J.P. Crawford couldn’t turn what could have been the inning-ending double play.

“Our offense did a lot of really good things tonight,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “That was about as good of an inning as we’ve had all year long.

“(But) you know that game isn’t over. Certainly against the Royals.”

The collapse overshadowed a career night from Bliss, featuring his first-career home run and a pair of sparkling defensive plays at second base. Sunday brought another Bliss web gem, an across-the-body throw to first base after charging a fourth-inning grounder toward second.

How would Bliss describe a momentous night he surely will never forget despite a more-than-forgettable team collapse?

“A swing of emotions,” he said with a smile. “Baseball… It’s a long game. We got all of those runs in the first. I don’t think anyone thought the game was over… I didn’t.

“The (Royals are) a good team… it just happens.”

And the homer?

“Your first hit is special, and your first home run is even more special,” said Bliss.

But Friday’s win only sparked Kansas City, one of baseball’s biggest surprises in possession of the American League’s fourth-best record. The Royals jolted Luis Castillo in Saturday’s middle game and cruised to victory, 8-4, claiming the weekend series.

A flurry of moves shuffled Seattle’s roster prior to Sunday’s finale, including first baseman Ty France’s move to the 10-day injured list. He suffered a hairline fracture of his right heel on a spiked hit-by-pitch in Friday night’s game. There’s no timeline for France’s return, and Servais expressed concern Saturday night.

The headline promotion among six total transactions: Seattle selected infielder Tyler Locklear from Triple-A Tacoma to make his major league debut, positioned at first base in France’s absence.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is Baseball America’s No. 83 prospect and was selected 58th overall by the Mariners in the 2022 draft. Locklear, 23, slashed .293/.404/.520 in 51 games between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma this season before his promotion.

Perhaps all Seattle needed was a fresh face to turn the tide.

It took extra innings, but Locklear’s go-ahead double in the seventh inning scored Mitch Haniger and proved crucial in a game where Kansas City, again, refused to fizzle. Seattle’s latest addition blistered a first-pitch slider to the right-center gap off Royals righty Will Klein that put the Mariners ahead, 2-1, and he became the first Mariners player with a go-ahead hit in the seventh or later since Mike Wilson on May 10, 2011, at Baltimore.

“I got here last night around 12:30 a.m.,” Locklear said Sunday in Kansas City. “Woke up, came to the yard, and got ready for the game.

“(The debut) was nerve-racking at first. Guys in the locker room, both Mitch’s [Garver and Haniger] actually, helping me calm down, telling me it’s just a game. ... Just live it up, go be a kid.”

Seattle was one out away from a win Sunday when Melendez homered again in this series – a first-pitch, two-run blast off Mike Baumann that tied the finale at three.

Even then, it was far from over. Julio Rodriguez singled home Rojas in the 10th and Cal Raleigh later delivered a two-run single to open the floodgates, 6-3. And they needed every run to escape, 6-5, following another last-gasp, two-run homer by Kansas City’s Hunter Renfroe.

Still, Locklear’s go-ahead double and first career hit rewarded Kirby’s seven stellar innings that featured five hits, four strikeouts, and one earned run without a walk. He stranded early traffic and went on to retire his final eight batters before exiting amid the 1-1 tie.

“(The double) felt good,” Locklear said. “I blacked out a little bit, not going to lie, rounding first. ... It was really cool to see everybody jump up and clap for me and be happy.”

He’ll see everyday time at first base as France nurses his fractured heel, Servais said.

“It’s not just going to be a platoon situation,” the manager said. “We’re going to play him. … We’re going to give (Tyler) a shot.”

Divisional rival Houston (30-35) continues a long climb from an early-season slump while Texas (31-34) remains similarly underwater, stretching Seattle’s (37-30) AL-West lead to five games, as of Sunday afternoon.


Bryan Woo has successfully harnessed two very different fastballs that release and tunnel identically – until they don’t.

His lively, 95-mph four-seamer rises and typically dots the edge. The two-seamer appears eerily similar, then cuts sharply below the knees. And it’s completely unfair.

Hitters know what’s coming, at least until the final moment. Woo offered fastballs to Oakland hitters two-thirds of the time in Thursday’s start and dazzled, rolling through Athletics across six scoreless frames. Despite falling behind in early counts, Woo never issued a walk and surrendered just two hits with six strikeouts.

Mitch Garver drove in two runs with a fourth-inning single and ninth-inning solo home run, and the Mariners grabbed the finale and three-game series with Thursday’s 3-0 win over the A’s.

“I was able to make some adjustments,” Woo said Thursday, “and obviously (found) a groove after that.”

His smooth delivery paired with a lower, unique arm slot lends itself to “easy gas,” topping 96 mph in his recent outing at the Oakland Coliseum. And the 24-year-old’s fabulous start etched Woo into both Mariners and Athletics franchise record books.

Woo’s 1.07 ERA is the lowest for any Mariners pitcher through six starts of a single season in franchise history. It’s a smaller sample size given Woo debuted on May 10 – he began the season on the injured list with right medial elbow inflammation – but opponents are slashing just .139/.160/.183 against the sophomore right-hander with 24 strikeouts and two walks.

Woo now owns 21 ⅓ scoreless innings (four starts) over Oakland to begin his career, the longest streak of any opponent in Athletics history.

“I think the confidence just comes in the preparation,” Woo said. “It comes in the stuff we do throughout the week. Looking at postgame, seeing the real stuff. Counts, where am I batter-to-batter, inning-to-inning.

“It’s not just putting up zeros. You can put up zeros but really not throw the ball well, and you can throw up a six-spot but (thought) you threw the ball really well. You’ve got to look at the process-stuff, not so much the results.”

Baseball isn’t always about the secrets, Servais advised.

“Sometimes, you go compete, and you’re better than they are on certain days,” he said. “He’s not trying to trick anybody. That’s just who (Bryan) is.”

Is catcher Cal Raleigh on board?

“I just listen to whatever Cal says,” Woo said. “I’m not shaking him any time soon. That dude puts in more work than anybody.”


— Ty France’s hit by pitch amid Friday night’s seven-run first inning at Kansas City “left a mark.” He became the all-time franchise leader in hit-by-pitches (90), surpassing Edgar Martinez’s 89.

— Shortstop J.P. Crawford hit leadoff home runs in back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.

— Julio Rodriguez has hit safely in each of 16 career games against the Royals.

— Cal Raleigh, stolen base. His first opportunity after reaching via hit-by-pitch, ‘Big Dumper’ utilized an impressive jump and rumbled to his first stolen base of the season on Thursday, just the second of his MLB career.

It manufactured a run when Mitch Garver lined an RBI to left field in the fourth inning, aiding Mariners starter Bryan Woo in Seattle’s 3-0 win over the A’s.

“Huge shoutout to Cal, stolen base,” Woo smiled. “We’ll probably have to give him a party or something.”

– The Mariners signed outfielder Victor Robles to a major-league contract, announced Tuesday before Seattle’s series opener in Oakland. Robles, 27, won a World Series with the Nationals as a rookie in 2019 and appeared in parts of eight major league seasons with the club before Washington designated him for assignment on May 27 and released him on June 1.

In 533 major league games, Robles has slashed .236/.311/.356, offering plus-speed. Seattle will pay him $465,426, prorated from MLB’s league minimum ($740,000).


The Mariners return to T-Mobile Park for a week-long, seven-game homestand with the Chicago White Sox (June 10-13) and Texas Rangers (June 14-16).

Logan Gilbert duels Chicago’s Erick Fedde in Monday’s series opener at 6:40 p.m.