ANAHEIM -- Marco Gonzales has been a lot of things for the Mariners this season. And now he's become "the stopper" as well.A Seattle club desperately needing someone to step up and squelch their recent skid got exactly that from the 26-year-old lefty on Sunday as he shut down the
ANAHEIM -- Marco Gonzales has been a lot of things for the Mariners this season. And now he's become "the stopper" as well.
A Seattle club desperately needing someone to step up and squelch their recent skid got exactly that from the 26-year-old lefty on Sunday as he shut down the Angels on two runs over six innings in an 8-5 victory.
"We're just trying to focus on the next game and really turn the page," Gonzales said. "That's going to be important for us down the stretch, to just take it one at a time. So I tried to do my part to get us back on track."
Gonzales, who came into the year as Seattle's tenuous No. 5 starter, has anchored their rotation over the first four months with a 12-5 record and 3.37 ERA.
Bolstered by an early breakout by the offense -- which put up its biggest inning of the season with a seven-run first -- Gonzales prevented an Angels sweep and turned the tide at least for a day for a team that had lost 11 of its last 16 games and saw former ace Felix Hernandez struggle again on Saturday.
"Marco didn't have his stuff today by any means," said manager Scott Servais. "He really didn't have his top curveball and his changeup was just OK. But that's what he's done all year. Even on days he doesn't have his 'A' game, he's able to keep us in the ballgame. Certainly scoring the runs early helped him, but really nice effort by him and that's exactly what we needed."
With Houston getting swept by Texas, the Mariners moved within four games of first place in the American League West at 62-43 heading into a three-game series with the Astros in Seattle. They also regained a two-game cushion over the A's in the chase for the AL's second Wild Card spot after Oakland lost in Colorado.
Gonzales' lone blemish was a two-run homer by Justin Upton in the fifth as he scattered seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts and is now 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts against the Angels this year.
Ben Gamel went 3-for-3 with a triple, an RBI and two runs scored, and Mike Zunino was 2-for-5 with a double and a trio of RBIs from the bottom two spots in the batting order.
But the Mariners spread their offense around, as leadoff man Dee Gordon went 3-for-5 and stole his AL-leading 25th base and Denard Span -- moved into the No. 3 spot in the order to take some pressure off Mitch Haniger -- was 3-for-5 with an RBI and made a huge catch to rob a three-run homer in the seventh and help ward off the Angels' late comeback.
"That's the biggest thing," Zunino said. "When we were playing extremely well, that's what we were doing. You didn't know who was going to be that day, but you knew somebody was going to step up for us. When you can have that from top to bottom, it's a tough lineup to pitch to."
Closer Edwin Diaz finished things off in the ninth for his MLB-leading 39th save and remains on pace for 60 for the season, which would be two shy of the all-time record of 62 set by the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez in 2008.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Span came up with the play of the game, going up over the left-field fence to rob Andrelton Simmons of a three-run homer off Nick Vincent that would have cut Seattle's lead to 8-7 in the seventh. Instead, Simmons settled for a sacrifice fly, and Juan Nicasio came on to retire Ian Kinsler to preserve the 8-5 lead.
"I knew I had a bead on it, but as I kept running back I knew I was getting closer and closer to the wall," Span said. "I just tried to keep my eye on it. Playing the outfield, you have that fifth sense of knowing the wall is getting close. You have it in your peripheral but also keep your eye on the ball. I kept my eye on it and made the play."
Gonzales is 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA over his last five starts with 31 strikeouts and four walks.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Mariners survived a scary moment in the bottom of the eighth when Zunino and first baseman Ryon Healy collided hard chasing down a foul pop by David Fletcher in front of the first-base dugout. The two big men were down momentarily, but got up and stayed in the game. Fletcher then immediately skied another high pop to Healy, which he called for emphatically and pumped his chest even with no one anywhere near … and then flipped the ball to Zunino with a smile as they trotted off the field.
"I just dropped the shoulder on him," said Zunino, who was jokingly claiming 'victory' in the clubhouse afterward with Healy listening nearby. "It was nothing but shoulder into sternum over there. Other than that, we're all good."
"He had gear on, why does he get the 'W?'" said Healy.
HE SAID IT
"The most important thing today was to get our guys back in the dugout. I was trying to get back in the dugout. It was hotter than heck out there and my feet were on fire. I was trying to get off my feet and get back in there." -- Gonzales, on pitching in the 92-degree heat
James Paxton (8-4, 3.70 ERA) is expected to be brought off the 10-day DL to face Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole (10-2, 2.54) in the opener of a three-game series on Monday at 7:10 p.m. PT at Safeco Field. Paxton has thrown just two-thirds of an inning over the past three weeks due to a stiff lower back. He's 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in two starts vs. Houston this year.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.