The questions remain in regard to Mariners rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio. That has always been true and is unlikely to change anytime soon. His stuff will never goose the radar gun or cause observers to sit up straighter.
Gaviglio, 27, is a pitchability guy who relies on command and, fact is, there aren’t many right-handers like that who succeed in the big leagues. There will always be questions, and any stumble will quickly breed doubts.
"The thing that’s stood out for me," manager Scott Servais said recently, "is his ability to not get too amped up. He does have a way of calming it down and continuing to make pitches.
"He’ll make a mistake, give up a homer or a double, but the sky is not falling. His maturity, as much as anything, sticks out to me. That’s what you get for a guy who has pitched a lot of minor-league baseball."
Gaviglio gave up two runs in six innings Saturday in a 5-2 loss to Houston. He got the loss. But this is what he proving he can do consistently — keep the Mariners in games by avoiding big innings.
With few exceptions, that is all any club wants its starter to do.
Now some numbers: Gaviglio’s 3.38 ERA is best among the Mariners’ starters. The average ERA for an American League starter is 4.53.
This marked the sixth time in eight starts since entering the rotation in mid-May that Gaviglio has allowed two or fewer earned runs. It’s usually good enough. The Mariners had won his five previous starts.
That steadiness is why the Mariners kept Gaviglio instead of Christian Bergman when Felix Hernandez returned Friday from the disabled list. There’s a good chance that Gaviglio sticks around when Drew Smyly returns in mid-July.
Three takeaways from Saturday’s loss:
***A tip of the cap: Remember that eight-game stretch last month when the Mariners scored just nine runs? That seems a long time ago.
The Mariners rank third third among American League clubs in runs scored and lead the league for runs scored in June. Their lineup is finally in place after a string of injuries to key players over the season’s first 12 weeks,
Houston right-hander Lance McCullers declared: "Top to bottom, that’s probably the best lineup that we face all year. Honestly, top to bottom there’s not really a huge break anywhere in there."
***Gamel goes hitless: The law of averages took a bite out of Ben Gamel on Saturday when he went hitless in four at-bats. He now only has hits in 25 of his last 27 games, His average is down to .346.
If the season ended Saturday, he would win the batting title despite being five plate appearances shy of meeting the qualifying number. But adding an 0-for-5 to his totals drops him to .338, which would still be first.
***An encouraging sign: Rookie right-hander Dan Altavilla closed Saturday’s game with two scoreless innings, which represented a welcome rebound after yielding seven runs in two innings over his two previous outings.
Altavilla has a tenuous grip on a big-league job because of a 5.79 ERA in 26 appearances. Emilio Pagan is eligible again to be recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, and he pitched four scoreless innings in each of his last two big-league games.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners