SEATTLE – They knew what was at stake without being told. They knew that there was still doubt lingering on whether this team is for real, something that isn’t likely to change any time soon. They knew what they had to do if they wanted to stay together and continue to prove people wrong.
And they did it, as they’ve done so often this season, with yet another blood-pressure spiking one-run win.
With Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the Oakland A’s, the Mariners won three out of four games in what was already a season-defining series.
They are now Mariners are 23-8 in one-run games. They are 54-46 and have moved within 1.5 games of the second wild card spot held by Oakland (56-45).
“Exciting baseball,” manager Scott Servais said. “It doesn’t really get much better than that against a real quality opponent. I can’t say enough about the grit, the effort or whatever word you want to throw out there, our guys showed up and played played their tails off all weekend.”
This current homestand, which transitions to a three-game series with the Astros starting on Monday, was going to be somewhat defining in what general manager Jerry Dipoto might do with the looming trade deadline on July 30.
“Obviously, we’ve got momentum on our side right now,” Servais said. “And we’re gonna ride this as long as we can.”
A bad showing might have forced them into sell mode for at least several pieces. But with the series win, could the Mariners be buyers instead?
“Every team is probably going to add something,” Servais said. “And I hope we add something. I guess that’s the best way I can put it. I don’t know what that’s going to be.”
With their bullpen heavily taxed from the first three games of the series, including Logan Gilbert’s shortened outing on Saturday, the Mariners needed Marco Gonzales to take some of the burden off the unit.
In a normal season from Gonzales, it would’ve been a given. But this season has been anything but typical for the leader of the Mariners’ pitching staff. He came into Sunday’s outing with a 2-5 record and a 5.69 ERA in 12 starts with only one outing of six innings pitched or more since returning on June 1 from a monthlong stint on the injured list.
The veteran lefty delivered as needed, not quite getting six innings, but providing an outing more indicative of his track record.
Gonzales grinded through 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts to improve to 3-5 on the season.
The Mariners provided the requisite amount of run support for a win, sending A’s starter Cole Irvin to his shortest outing of the season.
They scored four runs off Irvin in the third inning turning a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead – all with two outs. Kyle Seager’s two-run single with the bases loaded tied the game. Luis Torrens followed with an RBI single to left field and Tom Murphy’s bloop single to center that couldn’t quite be caught by a diving Ramon Laureano provided all the runs needed.
Chasing Irvin early was a bit of sweet comeuppance after his comments in a loss to the Mariners earlier this season when he gave up 10 hits.
“I think at the end of the day, pitch execution needs to be a lot better & a team like that should not be putting up 10 hits against me or anyone,” he told A’s media. “I’m extremely disappointed in my efforts tonight.”
That run support was plenty for Gonzales and the bullpen.
He was one out away from getting a quality start and finishing the sixth inning. After allowing a one-out infield single to Ramon Laureano, ending a string of nine consecutive batters retired, Gonzales got Jed Lworie to fly out to deep center of the second out.
With his pitch count nearing 100, Gonzales battled A’s catcher Sean Murphy. He thought he had Murphy struck out on a 2-2 curveball that home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski called a ball. With a full count, Murphy fouled off three pitches before another curveball sank below the strike zone for a 10-pitch walk. It ended Gonzales’ outing at 105 pitches.
He received a well-deserved standing ovation for his effort as he exited the mound. That he pitched into the sixth inning was more than the Mariners could’ve hoped for after it took him 49 pitches to get through the first two innings and 75 through three.
But after his teammates scored those four runs in the fourth, Gonzales came back with 1-2-3 frames in the fourth (10 pitches) and fifth (seven pitches).
J.T. Chargois finished the sixth inning for Gonzales, striking out the first batter he faced, Matt Chapman, and stranding both runners.