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Gonzales' gem ends Seattle staff's struggles

Mariners' hot bats help seal series win to cap opening road trip
@gregjohnsmlb
July 31, 2020

Nobody expects much out of the Mariners this year, with the youngest roster in the Majors and a pitching staff that had a 7.02 ERA, the second highest in MLB, through the first week. But don’t try telling that to those youngsters as Seattle topped the Angels, 8-5, on Thursday

Nobody expects much out of the Mariners this year, with the youngest roster in the Majors and a pitching staff that had a 7.02 ERA, the second highest in MLB, through the first week.

But don’t try telling that to those youngsters as Seattle topped the Angels, 8-5, on Thursday to win the three-game series at Angel Stadium and finish their season-opening road trip at 3-4, a half-game behind the first-place Astros and A’s in the American League West.

Box score

That first week turned into a nightly highlight reel for rookie center fielder Kyle Lewis, and he gained considerable help along the way as the Mariners’ offense stands first in the AL with a .341 on-base percentage and second with a .260 batting average and .770 OPS through seven games.

“This was an awesome series,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We learned a lot about ourselves here the last week. It’s going to be a process throughout the year, but I’m super excited about where we’re headed. As these guys get more comfortable and the experience continues to grow, we’re seeing the confidence shoot through the roof right now.”

Starting pitching was a huge issue for the Mariners their first time through the rotation this season, but Marco Gonzales turned that tide with 6 1/3 strong innings, allowing only a pair of unearned runs on three hits in his 94-pitch outing.

Gonzales’ only runs allowed came after a two-out error by second baseman Shed Long Jr. in the fifth, which Angels catcher Max Stassi followed with a two-run homer off the right-field foul pole.

Rookie first baseman José Marmolejos provided the early offense for Gonzales with a three-run homer -- the first of his career -- off Angels starter Dylan Bundy in the first. Marmolejos came into the game 2-for-18 with no extra-base hits while playing left field and designated hitter, but he got the start at first to give Evan White a day off and promptly belted a 412-foot blast.

“There’s a lot of guys with hunger that want to prove we belong here and can come together as a team and have fun,” said Marmolejos, who spent nine years in the Nationals’ Minor League system before finally getting his shot with Seattle this year. “That’s the main thing. Have fun. Even though it might not have been in the big leagues, we’ve been playing this game for quite a bit and you just have to go out and have fun.”

The Mariners broke things open with five runs in the ninth as Long led off with his first homer of the season, a 408-foot blast off Hansel Robles, and J.P. Crawford and Lewis each added a two-run single. Lewis extended his hitting streak to seven games with a 2-for-5 night as the rookie center fielder is hitting .448 (13-for-29) with two homers and seven RBIs.

Crawford has been productive of late, as the shortstop went 2-for-5 and scored two runs from his new-found leadoff spot. The 25-year-old is hitting .375 (9-for-24), and his .516 on-base percentage is third in the AL behind only the Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton and the Indians' José Ramírez.

“J.P.’s not backing off,” Servais said. “There’s a competitiveness you really see come out in guys. It’s all about winning with him. He takes his defense very seriously, but the adjustments he’s made in the batters’ box and quality of at-bats has been awesome to see. I love seeing young players mature, and he’s one of them right now that’s in a really good spot.”

Gonzales is only 28, but he stands as one of the veteran leaders on a club that features only two position-player starters -- Kyle Seager and Mallex Smith -- with more than 210 Major League games on their resume and had four rookies in Thursday's lineup.

“We have a lot of good energy right now, a really good culture of guys who work and come prepared,” Gonzales said. “I’m proud of the guys who are getting their opportunity and seizing it. We have a lot of guys who feel really confident right now, and I’m just hoping we hang onto that.”

The Mariners will get a chance to do that at home now as they return to Seattle to open a 10-game homestand with their first game at T-Mobile Park this season on Friday against the A’s.

“We’ve got a lot to look forward to,” Servais said. “We’re pumped up about it, and hopefully, Mariners fans are, too. There’s a lot of new faces and things they need to learn about our young players, but I think we’re pretty fun to watch right now. It should be a good homestand.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.