Healy heats up, helps Mariners avoid sweep
SEATTLE — Sunday's hero for the Seattle Mariners looked up as he dressed following a 6-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Safeco Field, spotting a reporter he had spoken with before the game.
"What did I tell you?" Ryon Healy told me, a slight grin on his face.
"Just a pitch away," I said, and he nodded before facing the media throng anxious to solicit his comments.
Healy's five RBIs were the difference as the Mariners (57-34) salvaged the finale of a three-game home series with Colorado, and it couldn't have come at a better time — for the player or the team.
The 6-4, 230-pound first baseman entered the game on an 0-for-13 streak and was batting .175 (11 for 63) over the previous 13 games to drop his average for the season to .245.
"Any moment, we all feel like we're ready to get hot, that we're always a pitch away," the former University of Oregon standout told me pregame. "You just have to ride out the wave, the good and the bad, and wait for the good ones to come."
Healy rode the wave like Laird Hamilton on Sunday, first ripping a two-run double to left-center field in the first inning, then blasting a three-run homer deep over the left-field fence to provide the winning runs in the seventh.
The first-inning double, in a two-out, bases-loaded situation, "felt like a monkey was lifted off my back, helping the team like that," Healy said. "Awesome to come through so early in the game."
The homer came after the Rockies had rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead in the sixth. Healy's prodigious shot was his 18th homer of the season and increased his RBI total to 44. The five RBIs tied a career single-game high for Healy, who spent his first 1 1/2 seasons in the majors with Oakland.
"Ryon had an outstanding game," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "He just has to be patient. You ride the ups and downs. He's a good player. There are going to be some stretches where it doesn't look so pretty.
"He made really good adjustments today. He was the guy up there for us — right guy, right spot."
Healy, acquired in a trade with the A's last November, started this season 2 for 22, then sprained an ankle and was out of action from April 9-25.
"It wasn't the ideal way to get started in a new situation," said Healy, 25.
Healy's power numbers have been good since then, but he has been inconsistent at the plate.
"Ryon's first half is about what we thought we would get," Servais said. "Ryon has been a streaky hitter throughout his career. He'll have a couple of days where he'll struggle, and then he'll go 4 for 4 with a couple of homers.
"It's just where he is. He still has a ways to go to get over the hump and become the player he can be in terms of consistency. He has to understand that 0 for 4 happens, 0 for 8 happens, 1 for 15 happens. That's just part of the game. You have to have enough confidence and be secure enough to know you'll snap out of it."
Servais and batting instructor Edgar Martinez, among others, have worked with Healy on the mental part of hitting.
"(They say) you can have four good at-bats and go 0 for 4 and it's frustrating, but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.," Healy said. "And then you get a couple of broken-bat singles or flares here and there. That's the way the game evens itself out.
"I'm still learning a lot. (Opponents) are making big adjustments against me. The more experience they get against me and I get against them, it's more of a chess game. I'm just trying to stay ahead of the curve and make sure I'm as prepared as possible."
With his athleticism, length and sure glove, Healy is a plus defender at first base.
"The job he has done there has been underrated," Servais said. "I'm very happy with his defensive work."
"You don't always produce offensively," Healy said. "You have to find a way to help the team win games regardless of how you're feeling at the plate. Defense has been a big focus — not just for me, but for the team in general."
The West Hills, California, native played at Oregon from 2011-13 and holds the Ducks' record for RBIs in a season (56) and career (118). A third-round draft pick by Oakland, Healy progressed quickly to the big leagues. He batted .305 with 13 homers in 72 games as a rookie in 2016, then hit .271 with 25 homers and 78 RBIs in 149 games in 2017. Deemed expendable after last season, he welcomed a chance for a return to the Northwest.
"I loved coming here as a visiting player," Healy said. "The stadium and the city are something special. I get to stay on the West Coast. Family is close. A lot of college friends come up and visit. To be able to play here is a blessing."
Healy's power and potential to get hot with his bat has kept him in the daily lineup.
"He's going to play," Servais said. "I've shown my confidence in him."
"That helps me build myself up when I'm a little beat up, or down about the way I'm playing," Healy said. "They understand probably more than I do the way this game has ebbs and flows.
"The coaching staff does a great job of staying positive with me, and my teammates pick me up, too. It's not just me but the entire clubhouse, whenever anyone needs it. That's a big reason why we're so good. Everyone genuinely cares about one another."
Servais said he intends to stick with Healy.
"He's maturing," the third-year Seattle manager said. "Ryon is an emotional guy. That's why we all love him. He's into the game.
"Riding those highs and lows through a long season has taken a lot of energy away from him. I'm trying to keep him a little more even-keel. We know how valuable he is to our team. We want to keep him in a good spot."
Healy was in a good spot Sunday. He's not counting on it carrying over when the Mariners begin a six-game road trip at Anaheim on Tuesday night, but he'd like it to.
"I try not to put too much weight on any one day," he said. "You really can't with how many bad days there are in a long season. You just have to go with it.
"My approach has been a lot better the last couple of days. I'll try to snowball the good days together and make it a quality streak."