SEATTLE -- Marco Gonzales found the perfect way to quiet the legions of Blue Jays fans who trekked south to T-Mobile Park for the weekend, firing seven innings of one-run ball, as the Mariners eked out a 3-1 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Gonzales set a career high for wins while improving to 14-10 with a 4.17 ERA after he gave up just three hits, with two walks and five strikeouts in a strong 99-pitch performance.
The former Gonzaga standout had some caustic comments last year about the invading Blue Jays fans taking over Seattle’s home ballpark, but he let his pitching do the talking this time.
“It didn’t matter who was in the stands,” Gonzales said. “I had a lot of family here. My wife and our extended family. My brother flew in. So, to me, it didn’t matter who was in the stands this weekend. It could have been empty, for all I care. I wanted to put on a show for them and do them proud.”
The Mariners only managed four hits, but they made the most of them, as they won a game without leaving a runner on base for just the fourth time in franchise history. Seattle has had only 11 games when it has left no one on base, the last coming in 2012 when the White Sox’s Philip Humber threw a perfect game against the Mariners. The last time they won a game without stranding a runner was in '05.
The Mariners got a solo home run from Dylan Moore and an RBI double from Kyle Seager, who was then doubled off second base. Seattle also pushed across an insurance run in the seventh on an infield single by Austin Nola, who took second on a throwing error on reliever Jason Adam, moved to third on a balk and raced home on a sacrifice fly to shallow left by Omar Narvaez.
While the Mariners are 56-75 on the season, they’ve won six of their past eight and have been playing better baseball of late. Here are three things to like from Sunday’s series-clinching win:
1) Finding that extra gear
Gonzales was sharp from the start, zipping through Toronto's aggressive young lineup. But the 27-year-old lefty had to bear down in the fifth after giving up a leadoff walk to Derek Fisher, then letting the Blue Jays left fielder hustle to third base when trying to pick Fisher off with a snap throw that got past Nola at first.
But Gonzales stranded Fisher there, getting Teoscar Hernandez to pop to short, then striking out Brandon Drury and inducing a groundout to Nola from Reese McGuire.
“That was huge, especially putting myself in that hole,” Gonzales said. “Looking around, I had no one else to blame but myself. I knew after that, if I can get out of something like that, it’s huge, and we’ve got a lot of momentum going forward.”
Gonzales nearly did it again in the sixth when he gave up a leadoff double to rookie standout Bo Bichette, getting two outs before Rowdy Tellez pushed a grounder through the left side against the shift to score Toronto's lone run.
Gonzales has been a beast at T-Mobile Park of late, where he’s now 5-0 with a 2.14 ERA over his past six starts, while allowing just one home run.
How important has Gonzales been for the Mariners? In games he’s started, Seattle is 15-13, compared to 41-62 with all other starters.
2) Stayin’ sharp on the bench
Moore hadn’t gotten an at-bat in a week, dating back to his last start last Sunday in Toronto. But the rookie utility man didn’t let that slow him any, as he ripped a 419-foot homer to left field in the second inning off Clay Buchholz to give Seattle a 1-0 lead.
Dealing with the sporadic playing time of a utility role is a challenge for any player, particularly one in his first year in the Majors.
“You just have to put the work in while you’re not in there and be ready when your time comes,” said the 27-year-old.
Moore has played well defensively at all the infield positions, and he got the call on Sunday in left field, where he’s also filled in well despite losing playing time of late to fellow rookie Tim Lopes.
Moore made a game-saving catch in the eighth, as he needed a late dive to haul in a floater to left by Tellez to get reliever Sam Tuivailala out of a second-and-third, two-out jam with Seattle clinging to a 3-1 lead.
“I give Dylan a ton of credit,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It seems like every day we put him out there, he does something. It’s a defensive play, a big hit.”
3) Seager not slowing down
The Mariners’ third baseman has been on a tear for the past month, and his RBI double in the fourth stood up as the deciding blow on a sunny day game where hits were hard to come by.
Minus Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce and Mitch Haniger, Seager has stepped up and carried Seattle's offense of late. It’s been a remarkable turnaround, given that the 31-year-old was batting .186 on July 21 after missing the first two months after undergoing surgery on his left hand and then getting off to a horrendous start.
But in his ensuing 29 games, Seager has hit .358 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs, and he has hiked his season average up to .252, just shy of his career average of .257.
“It’s been tremendous,” Servais said. “He’s been very consistent. He’s on the fastball, makes adjustments, is seeing the offspeed pitches very well. I hope he continues to finish out the season this way, because it’s a lot of fun to watch.”