SEATTLE — The home run party continued Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park, and Daniel Vogelbach picked the perfect time to join.
Vogelbach, who was a late addition to the lineup after veteran Edwin Encarnacion was scratched with a sore wrist, crushed his first homer of the season a solo shot to center field in the eighth inning, giving the Seattle Mariners just enough room to slip past the Los Angeles Angels, 2-1, in front of a crowd of 13,567.
“You never know when your number is going to be called, and you’ve got to be ready to play every single night,” Vogelbach said. “I’m just glad that I can help this team win, and be on this team, and come to the clubhouse every day and have as much fun as we do.”
The Mariners are off to the best start in club history at 7-1, and have now hit homers in each of the first eight games of the season, tying the club record set by the 1998 Mariners. The homer was Seattle’s 17th of the season.
“It’s going to be a fun summer,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “There are going to be some ups and there are going to be some downs, but we have a group of guys that really enjoy playing together, and that’s what stands out right now.”
Vogelbach is the ninth player in the clubhouse to go yard this season, joining Tim Beckham (three), Jay Bruce (three), Domingo Santana (three), Ryon Healy (two), Omar Narvaez (two), Edwin Encarnacion (one), Mitch Haniger (one) and Mallex Smith (one).
But, Vogelbach was quick following the win to shift the focus to Mariners starting pitcher Marco Gonzales, who pitched brilliantly in earning his third win of the season.
“Tonight’s about Marco,” Vogelbach said. “The guy was unbelievable from the first inning. He threw strikes. Every inning he went out he got fast outs, and he gave us a chance. (Angels starter Trevor) Cahill threw really well and he kept us in it, and we were able to come away with a win at the end.”
Gonzales (3-0, 3.26 ERA) delivered a gem, tossing 8 1/3 innings while allowing just one run on four hits. He threw 100 pitches, struck out three and walked one. Gonzales said this was the best he’s felt his command has been in his first three starts.
“It was one of those magical days,” he said. “And you feel it in the bullpen, but you try not to be too optimistic about it, you just want to stay the same, but I definitely felt a difference today when I was in the bullpen.
“It was easier to do what I wanted with the ball, and I was fortunate to carry that into the game.”
And, he knew in the eighth he wanted to carry it through the end. Ahead of the ninth inning, and with 88 pitches on his arm, he spoke with Servais talked about taking the hill for the ninth.
“He came down to me in the tunnel, and we had a discussion,” Gonzales said. “And basically it ended with me saying, ‘I want it.’
“And he kind of took a couple of seconds, looked me in the eyes, and made the decision and said, ‘It’s your game.’ There was no doubt in my mind that I had the utmost confidence to go out there and finish it.”
Servais said his first reaction was to pull Gonzales after the eighth, but the 27-year-old left-hander disagreed, and convinced him otherwise.
“He really wanted to get back out there,” Servais said. “We had a lengthy discussion, and I think there comes a time you’ve got to trust your guys, and I want to do that and find out if he can finish.”
Servais said, after the impressive year Gonzales posted for the Mariners in 2018, and how he’s opened the season, he had earned the trust to make the call.
“He earned the right to be that guy, and certainly he earned the right to go back out there for the ninth inning tonight,” Servais said. “I want guys to be passionate about it and want the ball and argue with me. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t.”
Gonzales recorded the first out in the ninth before walking Angels slugger Mike Trout, and giving up a single to Andrelton Simmons, ending his outing.
Left-hander Anthony Swarzak, making his season debut after returning from a shoulder injury, struck out Albert Pujols and forced Lucroy into a groundout to second to end the game. Swarzak was activated from the 10-day injured list earlier Tuesday.
He was the fourth Mariner to earn a save in as many days, joining Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Bradford and Roenis Elias.
Swarzak said he was up pitching in the bullpen and ready in the eighth if needed, but the Mariners opted to let Gonzales start the ninth.
“They sent him back out, and they said if he got into some trouble be ready,” Swarzak said. “I was kind of hoping to see him finish the game, to be honest with you, and I think he could have done it if it was middle of summer. You know, break him in a little bit, I think he’s got that game for sure.
“But, I was happy that I got in there and got the job done for the team.”
After the Angels took the early one-run lead in the second, Seattle finally squared the game up in the sixth.
Dee Gordon sent a one-out double down the first-base line, and advanced to third on one of Cahill’s two wild pitches in the inning. Mitch Haniger connected on a two-out double to left, and Gordon scored the tying run.
Cahill (0-1, 3.75) left the game with no decision after six innings, allowing the one run on three hits while striking out five. He was the first opposing starter the Mariners have faced in their eight games this season who pitched a full six frames.
The Mariners were held scoreless in the first three innings for the first time this season, after scoring 33 of their 54 runs during the first seven outings in the first three frames.
Gonzales allowed a single to Trout in the first, and a lead-off double to Jonathan Lucroy in the second — he advanced and scored the game’s opening run on a pair of groundouts — before sitting down the next 17 batters in order.
Lucroy also eventually ended the consecutive batters retired streak with a two-out single in the top of the seventh, but the Angels did no further damage.
Gonzales retired five of the next seven batters he faced before exiting with one out in the ninth.
The Mariners have an off day Wednesday, before beginning a seven-game road trip. They open a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox at 11:10 a.m. Thursday, and have another off day Friday, before playing the White Sox twice more the following two days.
Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi’s (0-0, 2.53) father, Yuji Kikuchi died recently, but Kikuchi will stay with the team, and make his scheduled start Thursday. He will face Chicago right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (0-1, 9.00).
Seattle begins a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Monday before returning home Friday, March 12.