Julio Rodriguez finally gets to celebrate 1st home run of the season at home for Mariners

SEATTLE (AP) — It took 22 games, but Julio Rodríguez finally left the yard at home.

The Seattle Mariners slugger hit his first home run at home this season in Sunday’s game against the Oakland Athletics. Rodríguez clubbed a 2-2 pitch from Oakland starter Alex Wood out to straightaway center field in the second inning for a two-run shot that gave Seattle a 5-0 lead.

The Mariners went on to win 8-4.

“Once we get Julio going and he's driving the ball out of the yard like that, I mean, that's a good thing for us because he's kind of the spark plug to this team,” Seattle DH Mitch Garver said.

It was just the second homer all year for Rodríguez as the long ball has been missing from his game at the plate for most of the first six weeks of the season and especially at home. It took nearly a month before Rodríguez hit his first long ball on April 23 in Texas and almost three more weeks before he did it again.

Rodríguez's homer was his first at T-Mobile Park since Sept. 28 last season against Texas in the final home series of the regular season. It had an exit velocity of 109 mph and traveled an estimated 409 feet.

Rodríguez nearly homered in his next at-bat, doubling off the top of the wall in left-center field before scoring on Garver's home run.

“You’ve got to stay patient and let the results come and I feel like today was the day and I’m really happy about that, that I was able to help the team win,” Rodríguez said.

There had been signs that Rodríguez was starting to hit the ball harder and more consistently. That included Saturday’s game when he put three balls in play with exit velocity’s higher than 101 mph. All three balls he put in play on Sunday had exit velocity's over 100 mph.

Seattle manager Scott Servais noted the work Rodríguez has put in the batting cage and that his center fielder beat him to the park on Sunday morning.

“He’s working at it really hard,” Servais said before Sunday’s game. “He’s frustrated and I think when you have a really talented player that is trying different things and just trying to make it simple; get on the fastball. That’s about as simple as we can make it. To be a good hitter in this league you have to hit the fastball.”

Last season, Rodríguez finished with 32 homers and 103 RBIs, with 14 of those home runs coming at home. He also homered on May 12 last year against Detroit.