June 24th, 2023
Rodríguez converted one of the better home run robberies you will see in the Mariners’ walk-off 6-4 loss to the Orioles in 10 innings on Saturday afternoon, leaping over the center-field wall at Oriole Park at Camden Yards to rob Ryan O’Hearn.
With Seattle down 4-3 in the seventh inning, O’Hearn punched a hanging Ty Adcock slider for what should have been a game-breaking two-run homer. But Rodríguez tracked the ball the entire way, timing his jump perfectly at the wall to snatch it out of the air above the Orioles’ bullpen.
“I knew I had it the whole time, I just didn’t think that it was going to go so far,” Rodriguez said. “I definitely was looking forward to that.”
Rodríguez was understandably charged up after the play, while O’Hearn put both hands on his helmet in disbelief. Before the next half-inning, Rodríguez celebrated by making a young fan’s day — handing the boy, who was wearing a Rodríguez jersey, the ball from the play from just outside the Mariners’ dugout.
“He had a big sign with boxes on it, and the last box left to check was meeting me,” Rodríguez said. “I went over and said hi to him and talked to him a little bit between innings, and after I made the catch, I said: ‘Take that souvenir.’ I knew he’d appreciate that.”
Robbing a homer has been on Rodríguez ‘s bucket list since he broke into the league last season; surprisingly, his near-unanimous AL Rookie of the Year Award-winning 2022 season did not include such a catch despite Rodríguez ranking among baseball’s best defensive center fielders. He entered play Saturday tied for third among MLB center fielders in Outs Above Average again in 2023, though his offensive production has slumped amid fits and starts at the plate.
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In that sense, the great grab was part of an excellent all-around day from Rodríguez, who also hit his 13th homer of the season in the top of the sixth and stole his 17th base as part of a three-hit game. But the Mariners ultimately dropped back a game below .500 (37-38) despite those contributions and two Mike Ford homers, including a game-tying two-out smash off Orioles closer Felix Bautista in the ninth. Ford became the first Seattle player to homer on a triple-digit pitch in the pitch tracking era, since 2008, before the club ultimately lost on Ryan McKenna’s walk-off two-run homer in the 10th.
Rodríguez is slashing .243/.305/.424 — down considerably from the .272/.333/.449 line he produced through 75 games as a rookie in 2022. But he is still on pace for 28 homers and 36 steals, and his game-changing all-around ability remains plain to see.
“Julio had a really good game today,” manager Scott Servais said. “Even though we scored a lot of runs last night, he was in here early today, working on a few things with our hitting coaches. He was on it most of the day, and then made a fantastic catch. This ballpark has a tendency of producing some of those catches, and he got a good one.”