SEATTLE — After a scorching start to this season that inspired his own set of his T-shirts featuring the words: “Flip it like Beckham,” and a picture of him flipping his bat following a home run, there have been limited opportunities to play, let alone bat flip, for Tim Beckham.
Since J.P. Crawford was recalled from Class AAA Tacoma to take over as the everyday shortstop, it has been mostly spot starts and pinch-hit appearances for Beckham since mid-May.
In that time, Beckham has tried to be patient and professional in waiting for his chances to produce for a team that has no plans of making him part of their future.
He waits to play or be told he’s playing on another team.
But all that constant uncertainty was momentarily forgotten in the time that it took for a baseball to leave his bat and rocket over the fence in left field.
Brought in to pinch hit for Mac Williamson to start the eighth inning of a tie game, Beckham smashed the decisive solo homer off St. Louis right-hander Giovanny Gallegos in Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Cardinals.
“I wanted to go up there and if he threw me a first-pitch heater, I didn’t want to miss it,” Beckham said. “And I missed it. So then it was just battle mode. I wasn’t worried about his slider. I’d faced him a couple of times before.”
After fouling off that first-pitch fastball, Beckham shrugged off the 0-1 slider and took a called strike fastball to get down 1-2.
He fouled off three straight pitches before Gallegos left the seventh pitch of the at-bat — a 94 mph slider — over the inside half of the plate.
“I knew it was gone,” Beckham said.
And you’re damn right there was a bat flip. It wasn’t as pronounced as others — more of a wrist flip and a drop back as he watched it go, as if to say, “I still got that.”
Beckham laughed when asked about it.
“I don’t know I’m doing it,” Beckham said. “Some of them I hit them and I don’t flip. Usually it happens more on ones to center and right-center because I hit it and I’m looking at them.”
The Mariners will take the homers with or without the flips.
“He had a great at-bat and he was right on the fastballs,” manager Scott Servais said. “It was a huge hit in the ballgame and we needed one of those.”
Beckham’s late heroics didn’t end the game. Seattle still had to get the final three outs of the game.
That’s never a simple thing for a bullpen that has dealt with its share of inconsistency this season.
But Roenis Elias, the Mariners closer for now, worked a scoreless ninth to secure a victory and snap a four-game losing streak.
Before Crawford was called up on May 10, Beckham had started 36 of the Mariners 37 games at shortstop. But in the last 49 games, he’s started just 26 times and appeared in 31 games.
“We are all pros here,” he said. “You are expected to be a professional. I’ve been playing this game for a while now. You control what you can control. I don’t make the lineup. So when I’m in there, what I can control is seeing pitches and swinging at good pitches and my preparation. Keep preparing like you are in there every day.”
Trying to maintain his timing at the plate hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been a battle, man,” Beckham said. “When you are platooning and trying to find at-bats and your timing at the plate, it’s not easy. When you are in that role, you can’t afford to miss a fastball.”
Servais felt Beckham’s swing and approach has looked much better after hitting below .200 for most of May and and June.
“It’s getting at-bats and seeing pitches,” Beckham said. “That always helps.”
Opening for the third time in as many appearances, right-hander Matt Carasiti finally gave up a run in the role after working the last two “starts” with scoreless innings.
Jose Martinez hit the first of his two solo homers in the game.
Handed a 1-0 deficit, Wade LeBlanc, the bulk or Costco pitcher, pitched until the Mariners had turned it into a 4-1 lead.
LeBlanc held the Cardinals scoreless for the first four innings of his outing while his teammates rewarded him immediately with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second off Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty.
With two outs, Dee Gordon pulled a single into right field that scored Austin Nola from second. An irritated Flaherty gave up an infield single to Mallex Smith and walked the next two batters to force a run across for a 2-1 lead.
The potential big inning was stymied when Daniel Vogelbach’s ground ball to first was gloved for the final out of the inning.
The Mariners pushed the lead to 4-1 in the fifth with Flaherty still somehow in the game despite some meandering command as well as plenty of pitch-filled at-bats.
Vogelbach worked a leadoff walk and Omar Narvaez followed with a moonshot homer into the seats in right field.
It was Narvaez’s 12th homer of the season.
LeBlanc allowed his only run in the sixth on Martinez’s second solo homer of the game.
After issuing a two-out walk and allowing a double to one-time Mariners’ prospect Tyler O’Neill, LeBlanc was lifted for Anthony Bass, who got Yadier Molina to line out softly to shortstop to end the inning.