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Santana's big day propels Mariners in finale

Two homers, five RBIs more than enough offense for starter Gonzales
@gregjohnsmlb
June 19, 2019

SEATTLE -- “Turn Back the Clock Day” isn’t until Saturday, when the Mariners will pay homage to the 1969 Seattle Pilots in a game against the Orioles. But Wednesday’s 8-2 victory over the Royals at T-Mobile Park felt a little like a throwback of its own ... back to the

SEATTLE -- “Turn Back the Clock Day” isn’t until Saturday, when the Mariners will pay homage to the 1969 Seattle Pilots in a game against the Orioles. But Wednesday’s 8-2 victory over the Royals at T-Mobile Park felt a little like a throwback of its own ... back to the earlier days of this season.

Just like old times, it was Marco Gonzales throwing a gem and Domingo Santana leading the offensive assault with a pair of home runs.

Box score

“Marco pitching well and we’re hitting homers, that’s a good formula for us,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais.

It helped, of course, that the matchup was against the Royals (25-49), but those same Royals took the first two games of this series, and Seattle certainly isn’t the same team that swept a four-game set in Kansas City in mid-April to hike its record to 13-2.

Santana and Daniel Vogelbach launched back-to-back homers in the first inning off Royals right-hander Brad Keller, who had allowed just four homers in 93 innings over his previous 15 starts, and the Mariners never looked back.

“The guys weren’t happy with how we played the last couple days,” Servais said. “You could feel it in the clubhouse when we came in this morning. We responded and got on Keller early. The guy has good stuff and hasn’t given up a ton of hits this year. We jumped on him early.”

Santana wound up adding a solo shot in the sixth off reliever Brian Flynn, as he went 3-for-4 with five RBIs, raising his totals to 15 homers and a team-leading 54 RBIs. Vogelbach upped his home run total to 18, tops on the team now that Edwin Encarnacion is with the Yankees, and added a sacrifice fly in the runaway win.

“I was just trying to be aggressive and set the tone early,” said Santana, who drove a first-pitch slider from Keller over the fence in left-center field to get things rolling. “It’s always nice to score first. It’s not good to play catch-up all the time. It helps our pitching staff settle down a little bit.”

The Mariners are now 22-12 when they score first, but just 10-34 when the opponent does.

Marco back on the mark

Perhaps most encouragingly for the Mariners, Gonzales (8-6, 4.38 ERA) appears solidly back on track after a miserable May, as he gave up just two runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. The 27-year-old is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in his last three starts after going 0-6 with a 7.79 ERA his prior seven outings.

“That’s Marco Gonzales,” Servais said. “We saw it for a long time last year. He had a little bumpy road there in May and was struggling with a few things, but he’s cleaned it up. Very aggressive again, pitching both sides of the plate, and we’re seeing him pitch top of the zone a little more, which I think is helping, so the hitters don’t just have one area of the strike zone to lock in on.”

Gonzales, who features four quality pitches, said he’s gotten back to using all his weapons and varying his approach.

“It’s just been a process of adapting and adjusting my game plan,” Gonzales said. “That’s the pitcher I want to be. I don’t want to show the same guy [the same thing] twice. I think something that’s overlooked with me is my ability to adapt. Hopefully, the past couple starts have shown I can bring a different thing every game.”

A little love with the gloves

Vogelbach did more than just drive the ball over the wall. The stocky first baseman made an excellent backhand snag of a hard grounder by Lucas Duda to turn an inning-ending double play in the fourth.

“It just comes with everything else,” Vogelbach said. “Like hitting, it just comes with reps. I feel confident over there. Whatever every day brings is what I’m ready to do. If it’s DH, first base, whatever I can do to help the team win moving forward is what I want to do and what I’m willing to do.”

The Mariners -- who lead the Majors in errors -- played a clean game defensively, with Dylan Moore looking good in just his second start in left field and J.P. Crawford again solidifying things at shortstop.

“We played good defense today, which is key for Marco and key for all of our guys on the mound,” Servais said. “You have to make the plays.”

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