Mariners ace Marco Gonzales makes club history, recording fifth win before May 1
When the Seattle Mariners traded St. Louis for Marco Gonzales in 2017, they knew they were getting a competitor. That’s the word that was continually used to classify who Gonzales is as a pitcher Thursday night at T-Mobile Park.
And the 27-year-old left-hander didn’t let up in a 14-2 win over the Texas Rangers, and really hasn’t let up since he started to hit his stride as a starter last September.
“I think I’m a competitor first and foremost,” Gonzales said. “I try to be aggressive with everything in the zone, and I try to keep a solid mix. I don’t know if there’s a definition for that, but in my mind I’m just going to bring everything I’ve got, and come at you with everything in any count.
“I think setting that up early in the game when I can throw everything for strikes, I think that gives me a lot of success in the later innings just because guys have a lot of options to think about when I’m on the mound.”
Thursday night at T-Mobile Park, Gonzales made club history, becoming the first Mariners pitcher to ever record five wins before May, in a seven-inning shutout performance.
Seattle’s crafty ace matched a career-high with nine strikeouts in his seventh start of the season, allowed just six hits and walked none as the Mariners ended a three-game skid against their American League West rivals.
Gonzales (5-0, 2.80 ERA) hasn’t lost a game since August against Houston — he hasn’t dropped a game in 11 starts — and used an even mix of sinkers, cutters and changeups to consistently keep Texas’ batters guessing in his latest win.
The Gonzaga product never faced more than four batters in an inning, threw 72 stikes to 26 balls, and methodically worked ahead in counts with 18 first-pitch strikes to the 26 batters he faced.
“It’s a good start,” Gonzales said. “But, I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s not about how you start it’s how you finish, so I just want to keep that momentum going. I’ve really been happy with what my pitches are doing lately and I just want to keep that feel going.”
Mariners manager Scott Servais said Gonzales looked as crisp as he has all season, building on his solid performance in his later innings Friday in Anaheim.
“Tonight just carried over from that one,” Servais said. “It starts on the mound, and he certainly led us tonight.”
And, it certainly didn’t hurt that Seattle’s offense scored a season-best 14 runs to cushion Gonzales, including five in the first inning.
All 10 batters that appeared for Seattle reached base at least once, eight of them drew walks, seven recorded hits, and seven notched at least one RBI.
The Mariners (17-11) plowed through six Texas pitchers — tagging four of them with at least two runs — in the first meeting of the season between the two clubs, and tallied multiple runs in five separate innings as they pushed their MLB-leading RBI total to 175. The Los Angeles Dodgers (140) are their closest contender in that category.
“Everybody chipped in,” Servais said. “Nice way to start the homestand.”
The Mariners jumped on Rangers rookie left-hander Taylor Hearn immediately, pushing across five runs in the first inning. Hearn, who was making his MLB debut, walked the bases loaded with the first three batters he faced.
Tim Beckham then singled on a sharp grounder down the third base line, and Mitch Haniger beat Asdrubal Cabrera’s throw home for the first run. Ryon Healy then hit a bases-clearing double to score three more. And Healy gave the Mariners a 5-0 lead later scoring on a Dee Gordon sacrifice fly.
Healy’s two doubles in a 3-for-5 night tied him for the major league lead in doubles with 12.
Hearn (0-1, 108.00 ERA) left the game after eight batters, recording just one out. He allowed five runs (four earned) on three hits and walked four. Only 18 of the 39 pitches he threw were for strikes.
Hearn had started just four games this season for Triple-A Nashville before his call-up Thursday. Every game he pitched in his career prior to those four was in Double-A or lower.
“We really wanted to make him work and come to us, and we executed,” Servais said. “We got good pitches, waited him out, and got a few good pitches to hit and got into their bullpen early.”
Texas left-hander Brett Martin retired eight consecutive Mariners in relief, but left in the fourth after Domingo Santana — who leads the AL with 29 RBIs — crushed a two-run double to right center to push Seattle’s lead to 7-0.
The Mariners continued to chip away at the Rangers’ bullpen in the fifth, adding two more runs on an Omar Narvaez sac fly, and a Gordon single.
Beckham then made it 11-0 in the sixth, when he launched his sixth home run of the season to center, also scoring Edwin Encarnacion, who was hit by a pitch in his left elbow a batter earlier. And Dylan Moore singled in Healy later in the inning to tack on another run.
Daniel Vogelbach became the seven Mariner to record a hit when he dropped a one-out double down the line in right that scored another two runs in the seventh to make it 14-0.
Beckham, Gordon, Healy and Moore each recorded multiple hits.
Seattle continues to lead the majors in extra-base hits with 116. They added six Thursday night, including five doubles and Beckham’s home run. The Mariners’ 57 dingers also pace the majors.
“It was an impressive win tonight,” Beckham said. “One through nine, everyone is continuing to put together good at-bats and continuing to be aggressive in the strike zone.”
Texas scored its only two runs of the game in the top of the eighth off of Mariners reliever Roenis Elias. Nomar Mazara ended the shutout with a two-out single that scored former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo, and Logan Forsythe later walked with the bases loaded to push Danny Santana across.
Chasen Bradford tossed a scoreless ninth for Seattle, and struck out Choo to end the game.
Left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (1-1, 4.68) will make his first abbreviated start of the season in Friday night’s second game against the Rangers. The Mariners plan to have the Japanese rookie toss the first inning.
As Kikuchi adjusts to the regular five-day rotation in the majors after pitching weekly back in Japan, he is expected to make this sort of short start about every fifth time through the rotation.
Top prospect Justus Sheffield, currently with Triple-A Tacoma, is expected to be called up Friday to make his Mariners debut in relief of Kikuchi. He made his MLB debut in relief last season with the New York Yankees.
Right-hander Shelby Miller (1-1, 7.63) is scheduled to start for the Rangers.
Game time is 7:10 p.m. It will be telecast on Root Sports Northwest, and broadcast on 710-ESPN radio.