Sucre's surge an inspiration for Seattle's run

Sucre's surge an inspiration for Seattle's run

HOUSTON -- If you're a Mariners fan looking to believe, searching for reminders that anything can happen in the game of baseball, look no further than the improbable tale of third-string catcher Jesus Sucre.

As the Mariners make a long-shot push for the playoffs in the final week, Sucre sits as Exhibit A in the "how to beat the odds" category. For starters, Sucre wasn't even expected back this season after fracturing his leg playing winter ball in Venezuela.

Yet after four months of rehab, the 28-year-old played well enough in the Minor Leagues to earn a September callup. With Mike Zunino and Chris Iannetta handling the backstop duties, Sucre was viewed merely as an insurance option at that point.

He owned a career .176 batting average in 222 games over parts of four seasons with Seattle, but catchers are known to get hurt and Sucre is a guy who can catch and throw and had filled in behind the plate even for a few games earlier in the year before Zunino was ready to be promoted.

But knowing Sucre has history with Felix Hernandez, manager Scott Servais gave him a start on Sept. 5 with the Mariners' ace on the mound and Sucre went 3-for-3 with two RBIs as Seattle beat Rangers ace Cole Hamels.

Sucre's two-run single

The next time Hernandez started, Sucre got the call again. And this time he went 2-for-5 with an RBI in a 14-3 win at Oakland. After a third game 11 days later -- and three more hits in a 2-1 win over Toronto -- Servais gave Sucre his first non-Felix start in September while paired with Taijuan Walker on Sunday and he went 2-for-3 with a double and the go-ahead two-run home run in a 4-3 win over the Twins.

So the guy hitting .188 in his career has suddenly batted 10-for-14 in September. Go figure.

"He's been huge for us," Servais said. "He doesn't try to do too much. He just tries to put the bat on the ball and get some pitches to hit. He's not trying to kill it, he's just trying to hit it and good things are happening."

And those good things have Sucre shrugging his shoulders and smiling, not quite sure himself where this hot streak has come from.

"I'm just going out and trying to have fun, trying to stay aggressive," he said. "I don't know. I'm swinging pretty good. Just going out and trying to see good pitches and put a good swing on it. [Hitting coach Edgar Martinez] was talking to me before the game [Sunday] and he said, 'This guy likes to throw inside.' So that's what I was looking for. And I put a good swing on it."

Good enough to hit his second career home run, and a very timely one at that, with Seattle battling to keep its American League Wild Card hopes alive.

"What do you want me to say?" said Sucre, whose smile said plenty. "I'm happy right now. We're trying to win games and make it to the playoffs. This is pretty good."

Even more impressive is that Sucre has managed to keep his hot streak going while only playing every five days or more. That sort of schedule wreaks havoc on the timing of most players, but he's found a way to stay hot.

"It's pretty hard," he acknowledged. "The last game I didn't play for like 13 days [actually 11] and went out and got three knocks. That made me feel pretty good."

So did Sunday's home run, of course. He said he just put his head down and ran on that one, not looking to show anybody up or assume the ball was going out.

"I'm not a home run guy," he acknowledged.

Yet his first homer of the season helped the Mariners pull out a victory in a must-win situation, avoiding a series loss against the Twins in a game where teammate Nelson Cruz cranked out two solo home runs to give him four for the series and 41 for the year.

Is he ready to challenge Cruz as the Mariners' big long-ball threat?

"I would like to be like that guy, one day," he said with a laugh.

But for one day, he already was.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.