Gilbert has best start as Murphy walks off A's

Mariners close May with five consecutive victories

June 1st, 2021

SEATTLE -- turned in the best start of his young career, the Mariners rebounded from a bullpen blunder in the eighth inning and exorcised his offensive demons by walking off the A’s in the 10th inning of an eventful, 6-5 win on Monday afternoon at T-Mobile Park.

There was so much to unpack from this one, but the most critical moments came in extras, with Murphy’s sacrifice fly scoring Ty France, who sparked the rally with a game-tying single that brought home lead runner Jack Mayfield. France only reached third due to an uncharacteristic error by A’s first baseman Matt Olson on a scorcher down the line by J.P. Crawford. Oakland then opted to intentionally walk Jake Fraley to load the bases and face Murphy, who wasn’t even the game’s starting catcher -- and who entered the day hitting .167/.223/.365.

Yet despite his offensive shortcomings in what’s been an incredibly tough year, Murphy exhibited a true professional approach by ambushing a middle-away fastball from Lou Trivino and sending it far enough to allow France to score. 

As he headed down the first-base line and his teammates attempted to mob him, Murphy lit up the new-look crazy face that has gone viral in Mariners social media circles.

“For me, I was trying to get the ball up so I could put it in the air. It was as simple as that,” Murphy said. “Obviously, the bases are loaded, one out, a fly ball is going to do the job and thankfully, I put myself in a good count and got the pitch I need to do it on.”

The Mariners have now won seven of their past eight games immediately following a season-long six-game losing streak. They are above .500, at 28-27, for the first time since May 16.

While Murphy certainly deserved the praise, especially how tough a year it’s been for him offensively, Gilbert’s development was the big takeaway from Monday.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 27 overall prospect completed a career-high six innings of two-run ball, striking out five and giving up five hits in what was by far the best of his four starts since being called up on May 13 -- one that offered more clarity on how he’ll impact the rotation in the immediate future and beyond.

“I was just trying to do the best for my team and put us in a position to win,” Gilbert said. “Of course, I want to go as deep as I can, help the bullpen out -- all that kind of stuff, especially when people are playing so well around me. … So, I felt like it was my turn to step up and try to do everything I could for the team.”

The 24-year-old needed just 80 pitches to get through six frames, a far more economical pace than his first three starts, with each resulting in short outings due to ballooned pitch tallies in the early innings.

The towering, 6-foot-6 righty threw his fastball with conviction -- and dominance. He dialed it up to 97.9 mph in the first inning and averaged 95 mph on the heater over the 54 that he threw. A big part of his success was much more precise location and far fewer center-cut offerings that were a problem in his previous starts.

Gilbert’s breaking balls weren’t as strong as his fastball, and he threw his developing changeup just once. So, there were certainly aspects of his outing on Monday that he can build on. But it was nonetheless a stellar performance, given where he’s at in his development and how bullish the Mariners are on what he can become.

“You know how Marco [Gonzales] gets late in the game? He kind of takes over and he's going to finish innings. Logan Gilbert has got that same attribute,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “That's what's going to allow him, not just his stuff, to be a top-end starter in this league."

Gilbert’s pure stuff was impressive, but the more promising aspect of his start was his poise -- and against a patient and powerful A’s lineup, one that he faced just six days prior. 

His first jam came in the third inning, when an in-zone slider was called ball three instead of strike three, which would’ve ended the inning but instead led to a walk to Olson. Then, Jed Lowrie followed with a ground-rule double that put runners at second and third. With the chance of a snowballing inning looming -- always a threat for a rookie -- Gilbert worked his way into a full count against Seth Brown, but punched him out on a 96.3 mph heater on the outer half. 

Then in the fifth, Gilbert gave up a leadoff double to Chad Pinder, who came around to score on another double from Olson. But by that point, Gilbert had generated two outs in between. And thanks to four runs of support in the fourth, Gilbert settled back in and struck out the contact-heavy Lowrie on a slider below the zone. 

That composure gave Servais conviction to send Gilbert back out for the sixth, which he completed for his second 1-2-3 inning of the day. Gilbert hadn’t pitched at least six innings since Aug. 24, 2019, for Double-A Arkansas, his penultimate start that year, when he jumped two Minor League classifications and finished the season 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA. 

“It's always the most fun in the later innings, when you feel like you're finishing up your outing,” Gilbert said. “I don't know how to explain it. But yeah, when you do feel like the finish line is right there, sometimes I was getting -- you probably can tell I'm not very animated -- but I was getting really pumped up out there and tried to like take a breath and settle myself down, because the crowd, the situation, all that kind of stuff, I was trying to finish strong.”