With a weekend left between them and the All-Star break, the Seattle Mariners put some of their progress on display. May was a disaster, June was much better, and the club that is already far out of reach of a playoff spot in the first half is looking to continue its recent momentum the first week of July.
A relatively clean, complete game on all sides helped the Mariners end a three-game skid Saturday night at T-Mobile Park with a 6-3 win over Oakland, and gave them a needed boost with just one game remaining before the midsummer breather.
“Overall, I think we’ve gotten better as the months go on,” Seattle’s All-Star selection Daniel Vogelbach said. “I think that’s all you can ask is continuing to get better. We’ve played some really good ball the past couple of weeks. Take the wins and losses out of it, I think we’ve been in a lot of games. ... We’re just going to try to keep getting better and finish the season strong.”
Vogelbach and Kyle Seager each hit two-run homers in a decisive fourth inning, Domingo Santana passed the 100 hits mark for the season, and ace Marco Gonzales tossed eight quality innings to propel the Mariners to a needed win.
Gonzales, who picked up his 10th win of the season, and became the fifth pitcher in club history to post multiple seasons with double-digit wins before the break, spotted the A’s a pair of runs in the first three innings, but nothing else.
Oakland loaded the bases with one out in the first on consecutive singles by Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, and a Khris Davis walk, but Gonzales limited the damage. Ramon Laureano’s sac fly scratched across a run, but Gonzales struck out Chad Pinder to end the threat. After that 28-pitch inning, he came back and retired the A’s in six pitches in the second.
Gonzales’ only other miscue in one of his longest outings of the season came on a third-inning solo homer by Olson that gave Oakland a 2-0 lead.
“It’s huge,” Gonzales said. “In your head you’re thinking, ‘I need to salvage as many innings as I can here.’ After a first inning like that, that’s what your goal is the next couple, is to get quick outs, and just keep attacking.
“I knew our bats could come to life at any moment. I was just trying to keep us in the game. Once they got the second run, I thought, ‘OK, that’s it. That’s all they’re getting, and any second we’re going to go off.’ And we did. Good swings by our lineup tonight. Vogey especially.”
Seattle grabbed the lead for good in the fourth. Santana singled for the second time before Vogelbach hit a towering two-run shot to right to tie the game that had a 43-degree launch angle and hung in the air for nearly seven seconds. It was his club-leading 21st homer of the season.
“I said, ‘Vogey, you almost hit it too high.’ He said, ‘Skip, if that one doesn’t leave, I quit,’ ” Mariners manager Scott Servais joked later. “Vogey knows he’s just got to get the ball in the air on a good part of the bat, and it usually does carry for him. He’s some kind of strong.”
Gonzales said he’d never seen a home run hit that high.
“I normally don’t hit high homers,” Vogelbach said. “I knew I hit it good, I just didn’t know if it was going to go out or not, just because of how high I hit it. But, it felt good off the bat.”
Seager, who has struggled at the plate since returning from an extended injured list stay in May, hit the go-ahead home run two batters later. Omar Narvaez reached on a bloop single, and Seager jumped on a Chris Bassitt cutter to make it 4-2. Seager’s blast didn’t cause quite as much commotion as Vogelbach’s, or travel as high in the air, but it gave the Mariners a lead they didn’t lose.
“I don’t know that I could (hit one as high as Vogelbach’s),” Seager said. “That was a good one. But, I tried to tell these guys over the years that it doesn’t matter how far they go, they all count the same.”
Seager’s distance was further, though. His 367-foot blast beat Vogelbach’s by 6 feet.
“Well, then I take back what I said about how it being further doesn’t matter,” Seager joked. “That’s all that matters.”
The homer ended a 0-for-21 slump for Seager that dated back to June 29, and he collected another RBI in the fifth, driving in Santana on a sac fly down the left field line that gave the Mariners a four-run advantage at that point.
“Nice to see Seager square up a few balls,” Servais said. “He’s been struggling and trying to find a few things since he’s come back after missing a few days with that wrist thing. I thought he hit three balls right on the screws tonight, and obviously the big home run.”
Earlier in the fifth, Seattle tacked on another run after J.P. Crawford was hit by a pitch with one out, and Santana, who finished 3-for-4, singled for the third time behind him to push Bassitt out of the game. Vogelbach drew a walk off Oakland reliever Wei-Chung Wang to load the bases, and Narvaez worked back from an 0-2 count to walk and force in a run. Seager’s sac fly then scored Santana.
“Tack-on runs are really important for us,” Servais said. “When we’re playing well and putting up bigger numbers, that’s the key. We did have some good at-bats when they brought the lefty in. Vogelbach gets a walk, Omar gets a walk, Seager makes a productive out. We get the sac fly. That’s what it takes.”
And, once Gonzales settled, he was able to work deep into the game on a day when the Mariners sent a pair of relievers to the 10-day IL. He allowed the two runs (both earned) on just five hits, while walking one and striking out six in eight complete innings.
It was just the second time in 20 starts this season he’s gone eight or more, but he’s allowed three earned runs or less in six consecutive starts since allowing a season-high 10 to the Angels on June 2.
Gonzales never faced more than four batters in an inning after the first, retired the final eight he faced in order, and remains undefeated against the A’s with three wins in as many appearances.
“It’s a learning experience,” Gonzales said. “I wanted to finish the first half strong and prove to myself that I could end on a good note here before the break. But, ups and downs, I think it’s just learning what my stuff is like this year and being able to pitch with what I’ve got.
“And trusting in my ability to go out and make pitches and get deep into the game and knowing that it’s not going to work out every time. It’s not going to be perfect every time. I’m just trying to build off that and improve on the next start.”
Laureano opened the top of the ninth with a solo homer deep to left off of Roenis Elias to cut the Mariners’ lead to three runs, but Elias retired the next three batters in order to end the game.