'I'm not sexy': Gonzales embraces workmanlike efficiency

Mariners homer three times to support left-hander's strong six innings

May 19th, 2022

TORONTO -- The postgame quote from Scott Servais was made-for-T-shirt gold, though Marco Gonzales jokingly hopes it doesn’t reach that point.

Asked why Gonzales continues to fly under the radar among the American League’s elite starting pitchers after his latest gem on Wednesday, Seattle’s manager was simple, succinct and satirical: “Marco is not sexy.”

On a night where the opposing starter, Kevin Gausman, was pumping 97 mph with a gnarly splitter, Gonzales worked around the edges, jammed Toronto’s righty-exclusive lineup inside with confidence, elicited consistent weak contact and pitched six innings of one-run ball to lead the Mariners to a 5-1 win, which helped them avoid a three-game sweep.

Gonzales generated just four whiffs and two strikeouts and topped out at 89.8 mph, playing into Servais’ label.

“There are a lot of different ways to get people out, and Marco takes pride in what he does,” Servais said. “When he steps on the mound, he feels like he can throw 100 [mph]. He locates. He changes speeds. He wins. There's a lot to be said for that.”

Gonzales laughed it off then responded to the same question with the confident chip he carries sitting firmly on his shoulder.

“I'm not sexy,” Gonzales said. “But I'm still here and I'm still getting dudes out. So I don't know what to tell you. If you don't think I can pitch at this level, then I love it because I'm going to keep proving you wrong. I've done it my entire career.”

Gonzales shares a rotation with the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner (Robbie Ray), a towering, 6-foot-6 righty who has elite extension (Logan Gilbert) and an up-and-coming prospect who throws 98 mph and exercises pinpoint command (George Kirby). In an era where stuff sells, the 30-year-old continues to buck the mainstream -- and he eats it all up.

“Everybody looks at what I got, and they say I don't even touch 90 [mph],” Gonzales said. “But I don't know what else I can say. I'm still here and I'm still making big league starts and still getting big league hitters out. So I guess that speaks for itself."

The only blemish on Gonzales’ outing on Wednesday was a bases-loaded walk to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the third inning on a pitch that dotted the black up and in. Despite the call, it was the location that Gonzales was seeking, with Servais calling it “the best bases-loaded walk that we've had in a while.”

Even so, Gonzales zeroed back in and induced a weak groundout to Teoscar Hernández, 74.8 mph off his bat. For the night, Gonzales elicited just six hard-hit balls (anything over 95 mph) and the Blue Jays had an average exit velocity of 85.5 mph on their 18 total balls in play against the lefty. Gonzales also erased the only extra-base hit he allowed, a double to Hernández in the sixth, by picking him off at second base immediately after.

“He’s awesome to catch,” Cal Raleigh said. “It’s a lot of fun when a guy can put a ball wherever he wants. I don’t feel like people give him enough credit. He puts the ball here, there, and that’s really hard to do, especially in today’s game, where everyone throws super hard.”

Raleigh and the offense ensured that a solid start wouldn’t be wasted, as was the case in the first two games of the series behind Chris Flexen and Gilbert due to a lack of run support. The backstop crushed his second homer since Sunday, a solo shot and the first of the season against Gausman, Toronto’s All-Star starter who signed in free agency to fill the void left by Ray.

Abraham Toro added an insurance run with a solo shot in the ninth, his fourth homer that late in a ballgame this year.

But it was Ty France who punctuated the offense’s revival with a two-run homer in the seventh, which was all the more impressive, given that he suffered a hip flexor strain during the series due to playing on the turf. France was in obvious pain as he rounded the bases, but he expects he won’t miss time.

“I feel it more when I rotate on the swing than when I do running,” France said. “Running, it didn't feel great, but it's more like rotating when I swing. But it's not the first time it's happened. Even that rotating, it didn't feel too good, but we’ll be alright.”

Wednesday represented a positive development, given the state of the offense for much of this season, and while the Mariners will need to exhibit more consistency, they didn’t let another strong outing from one of their starting pitchers go to waste.