Mariners sweep A's behind Gilbert's latest gem
Backed by France's 2-HR game, RHP notches Seattle's MLB-best 28th quality start
SEATTLE -- Logan Gilbert admitted that he wanted the chance to polish off his first career complete game. At an economical 77 pitches and rolling, having retired 22 of his past 23, it was as opportune a chance as there will probably be all season.
But the conversation from Mariners manager Scott Servais was deliberate -- and well-received. Seattle is in a 13-game stretch with no off-days and Oakland’s top of the order was due up, so Servais turned to Paul Sewald to secure a 3-2 win on Thursday at T-Mobile Park and complete a four-game sweep of the A's.
“I always want to keep going, especially at that point and being so close to the end there,” Gilbert said. “So I thought I might have a chance with the pitch count where it was at. But I mean, we've got the best bullpen in baseball.”
For all that his rotation mates have accomplished, Gilbert has perhaps flown more under the radar in what’s been an incredibly productive season.
Seattle’s towering righty matched his career high with eight innings, and his offense broke through in a tiebreaking eighth to advance the Mariners to two games above .500 (26-24) for the first time this year.
Ty France crushed two solo homers -- his first multi-homer game with Seattle -- before the Mariners loaded the bases in the eighth for Eugenio Suárez, who drew a walk to bring home the winning run.
“That's how we win baseball games,” France said. “That's just the kind of team we are. We're not going to come out and put up 10 runs every single night and slug them to death. So I'm not surprised by the at-bats we took.”
France quieted doubts on the health of his left hand, which was struck by a 94.5 mph fastball on Tuesday and forced him to miss Wednesday's game. Julio Rodríguez showed improved timing with a 101.8 mph, inside-out single in the first and a 100.6 mph double to the right-center gap in the eighth that set up the Mariners’ 14th comeback victory this year.
But the day’s star was Gilbert, who notched the Mariners’ MLB-leading 28th quality start -- and who is further finding himself as a complete pitcher.
“It's not an easy decision, but Logan understands,” Servais said. “I think the funny thing is, I've been talking to him about when to empty the tank. When you get to that 80-pitch mark, that's kind of it. He goes, 'I never even got 80 pitches.' He's in a good spot.”
Gilbert turned more to his fastball than his last time out in Atlanta, when he had as even a mix of his four pitches as ever. But it’s the fortification of his secondary pitches, particularly the splitter, that has made him a more pronounced threat.
“It's probably the first time in my career that, consistently, I'd say it's been that way,” Gilbert said of having all four pitches clicking at once.
“I think going into Spring Training, I was kind of testing the waters and felt really good about it. The slider, where that's been somewhat inconsistent in the past, I felt really good about that. [Same with] the curve. So, after a couple of starts here, and working with the catchers, seeing when the stuff plays the best, I think I'm feeling pretty good.”
Gilbert surrendered a double to Ryan Noda and a two-run homer to Seth Brown in the first inning, the second straight outing he's done so in the opening frame, but settled in to dominate by allowing just one baserunner the rest of the way. He also struck out six, bringing his season total to 69 and passing Luis Castillo for the team lead.
Gilbert also issued zero free passes for just the second time in 10 starts, lowering his walk rate to 4.3%, tied for eighth best among 72 qualified pitchers. George Kirby (2.2%) leads that group, and Bryce Miller (2.7%) would be in that range if he had enough innings to qualify. Gilbert’s 25.3% strikeout-to-walk rate trails only Spencer Strider (32.5%) and Kevin Gausman (27.6%), two early Cy Young Award candidates.
“He's mixing his pitches a lot more, and I think that's helping him,” France said of Gilbert. “And it saves him pitches in the long run. He's not trying to strike everyone out anymore. He knows he's got a really good defense behind him, and we're ready to work for him.”