SEATTLE -- Don't try telling Marco Gonzales these games don't mean anything.While the Mariners are all but mathematically eliminated in the American League Wild Card race, Gonzales wants to finish strong after a rough August and a two-week disabled list stint put a crimp in his outstanding season.So Tuesday's solid
SEATTLE -- Don't try telling Marco Gonzales these games don't mean anything.
While the Mariners are all but mathematically eliminated in the American League Wild Card race, Gonzales wants to finish strong after a rough August and a two-week disabled list stint put a crimp in his outstanding season.
So Tuesday's solid five-inning start in the Mariners' 2-1 loss to the Padres loomed large for the 26-year-old lefty as he looked far more like the pitcher Seattle saw over the first four months of the season before going 0-4 with a 10.35 ERA in his last four starts.
"I definitely felt a second wind, a boost of energy, for sure," Gonzales said. "I felt free and easy tonight and that was the main goal."
San Diego's William Myers doubled in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth off Mariners closer Edwin Diaz to drop Seattle to 79-65 and 11 1/2 games back of the Astros for the AL West lead and 8 1/2 behind Oakland for the second AL Wild Card berth with 18 games to go.
Diaz leads the Majors with 54 saves, but took the loss in a non-save situation after entering the tie game in the top of the ninth and giving up singles to Hunter Renfroe and Eric Hosmer before Myers laced his one-out double to left.
Gonzales allowed just four hits and the lone run in a 66-pitch outing that was limited to five frames by manager Scott Servais, who didn't want to over-extend the youngster in his first outing back from a strained cervical muscle in his neck.
Gonzales wound up with a no-decision, leaving him at 12-9 with a 4.24 ERA in 26 starts in his first full season as a Major League starter. But he has already set a career high with 150 2/3 innings in his second season removed from Tommy John surgery, and the Mariners' primary goal now is raising his work level to a point where he'll be ready to push 200 frames next year if all goes well.
"I think these games mean a lot [to Gonzales]," Servais said. "This is kind of uncharted territory for him as far as innings limits and what he's done with his stuff. So we'll keep a very, very close eye on him. You won't see us extend his pitch count much at all and tonight he did a great job. Five innings, very efficient, and turned it over to the bullpen after that."
Despite the dimming playoff prospects, Gonzales isn't raising a white flag on his team's season just yet.
"I'm trying to get us team wins," he said. "I'm not trying to get anything personal out of this. I'm trying to get us back in the hunt. I think if we're trying to look at what we're doing personally right now, we're on the wrong road. So for me, I'm going to attack hitters, get outs and try to keep us in ballgames."
Lack of offense has hurt Seattle in the second half as it has gone just 24-32 since July 5, and that remained true against the Padres as the only run came on a homer by Robinson Cano. The third-inning blast was Cano's eighth home run of the season and fourth in 24 games since returning from his suspension.
The Mariners went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded runners at third base in three different innings.
"Obviously in those situations, you've got to get your pitch to hit and we didn't do anything with it," Servais said.
Seattle is 0-3 and has scored just five runs against the Padres (58-88) in three Interleague meetings over the past two weeks.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Servais had Diaz warmed up to pitch the ninth, knowing it would be the game's only save situation if the Mariners pushed across a run in the bottom of the eighth when they wound up leaving the bases loaded on a flyout by Cameron Maybin. Although Diaz has pitched in a team-leading 65 games this season, Servais had no doubts about sending him out even when the game remained tied.
"He's our best pitcher in our bullpen," Servais said. "He's the best pitcher in many bullpens and that's the ninth inning. That's his spot. He was ready to go, he was fine. No issues there. I was hoping we'd push a run across in the eighth and create a save opportunity, it just didn't happen, but you want to pitch your best guy in that game, try to extend the game and it just wasn't his night tonight. He left a few balls up."
Diaz has a 1.07 ERA in save situations this year, allowing seven earned runs in 59 innings. His ERA is 6.98 in non-save situations, allowing eight earned runs in 10 1/3 innings.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Mariners won a first-inning challenge of a safe call on what initially was ruled an infield single by Francisco Mejia on a ground ball to Kyle Seager. But Seager's throw to first baseman Ryon Healy clearly beat Mejia by a half-step and the call was overturned after a 36-second review.
Wade LeBlanc (8-3, 3.56 ERA) looks to continue his hot streak as he takes on Padres southpaw Joey Lucchesi (7-8, 3.59) in Wednesday's 3:40 p.m. PT homestand finale at Safeco Field. LeBlanc has allowed just 13 hits and one run over 19 innings in his last three starts against the D-backs, A's and Orioles.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.