BOSTON — Cal Raleigh grew up idolizing Red Sox icon Jason Varitek and supporting Boston teams that the safety net led to two World Series titles.
Still, Big Dumper did something Monday night that Varitek never did, despite being one of the best hitters in the Red Sox’s storied history. Raleigh became the first catcher to homer on both sides of home plate in Fenway Park’s 112-year history while carrying the Mariners to a 10-1 win.
“It’s special here,” Raleigh said. “It’s really cool. I haven’t given it much thought, but it’s kind of surprising that Varitek has never done it. But it’s super cool, and I guess I can say I have Do it.
Raleigh’s father, Todd, is from Swanton, Vermont, and he played in the Red Sox organization in 1991 before finding his calling as a coach a year later, starting at the University of Vermont . So when the Mariners came to Boston last year and Raleigh had the chance to meet Varitek, he asked his idol to sign a jersey, which now hangs in his childhood home.
“He obviously had the ‘C’ on his chest, he was the captain,” Raleigh said of Varitek. “I feel like you don’t see a lot of guys like that, getting that respect and kind of earning all that. That’s exactly the kind of player you want to be. I don’t really care circuits and statistics. I want to be a good teammate, a good leader and a good guy that people can lean on.
Adding more quirkiness to the connection, Varitek only became a Red Sox great after the Mariners dealt him with pitcher Derek Lowe for nascent reliever Heathcliff Slocumb at the 1997 trade deadline, in what is widely regarded as one of the most lopsided deals in either franchise’s history. .
Monday night entered the record books for different reasons.
Raleigh’s left-side homer went farther, 438 feet and well past Pesky’s pole, but his right-side blast cleared the green monster and left the stadium completely, 434 feet out. They accounted for two of his five longest outbursts among his 36 career.
“You always think about hitting one on the monster when you’re little,” said Raleigh, whose grandmother was in attendance. “It’s so big, so intimidating. But obviously doing it today was super special.
Raleigh’s efforts, along with an eighth-inning offensive assault and George Kirby’s seventh straight quality start, secured the Mariners’ 10th win in their last 14 games. They can go two games above .500 for the first time in 2023 with a win on Tuesday.
Most heartening, however, was the life the Seattle offense showed on that road trip to back up the claim that once their bats find their footing, they could really take off – in especially with efforts like Kirby’s.
“I love our tee shots,” manager Scott Servais said. “We are super competitive. Was young. We have good arms. You hope the attack becomes more consistent, then you start gaining 10 out of 12 sequences when you start clicking. We have already done that. It is certainly within our reach to go out and start again.
Firmly in that group of hitters looking for more consistent results is Raleigh, who also ripped a single at 107.3 mph and drove four. He entered the day hitting .156/.270/.188 (.458 OPS) in the 10 games since his last home run on April 30 in Toronto, when he also smashed two.
Specifically, Raleigh was strikeout-sensitive, with a 30.8% K-rate coming in Monday that was 10th-highest in MLB. Overall, the Mariners have a 25.7% rate, the worst in MLB.
“Any time you start thinking about your swing, it’s never good,” Raleigh said. “I try to get back in time for the fastball and not overdo it. I’m trying to get back to what I was doing last year.
The Mariners aren’t built on batting average, but rather on-base and slugging percentages. Their offensive plan over the past two seasons, when they’ve won 90 games apiece, has relied on crushing opposing pitchers and hitting homers with runners on base — precisely their formula on Monday.
Eugenio Suárez also smashed a two-run homer, after Jarred Kelenic hit a single on the field. AJ Pollock followed with a hit RBI single and Ty France added a double RBI, extending his hit streak to 12 games. The Mariners went 5 for 15 with runners in scoring position, and five of their 15 hits were with two strikes, tying a season high.