Marco Gonzales bounces back and Jarred Kelenic shows promise, as the Mariners beat the Guardians 3-2 for their first series win of the year.
The Mariners were in the unusual position of being win-less in one-run games so far this year, at 0-2. However, they were able to rectify this to a certain point on Saturday night in Cleveland.
The M’s managed to hold their nerve and beat the Guardians 3-2 at Progressive Field. In the process, they also won their first series of the 2023 campaign.
The Mariners improved to 4-5 on this young season and will now go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon. For what it’s worth, they’ve won six straight times in Cleveland.
Bounce-back game for Gonzales
Seattle benefited from an excellent start by Marco Gonzales, who struggled in his last outing. This time around, he allowed six hits and just one run in 5.2 innings, while striking out five.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Gonzales, who issued three walks. In addition, Cleveland also had men on second and third base, when he was removed in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Regardless, the 2013 first round draft pick pitched well in general. His fastball and changeup were particularly effective.
When speaking to the media afterwards, Gonzales discussed the difference between his two starts this year. He said:
“I felt really good my first time out, but I felt like there were maybe some jitters with the first start of the year. So tonight I was just trying to stay confident, stay within our game plan, make a few adjustments based off their lineup and that was pretty much the same guys, besides (Josh) Naylor. It was just go out there and execute,”
It was important for Gonzales to stretch out his start, with several bullpen arms unable to go due to usage. As M’s manager Scott Servais said:
“Marco did an awesome job and that’s exactly what we needed out of him. Our only chance to win the ball game is if he gets us into the sixth inning. He did his job and stepped up.”
Team effort by Mariners
Talking of stepping up, this is essentially what the bullpen did. Yes they had their moments, such as allowing three walks, but they combined to only give up one earned run in 3.1 innings.
In truth, the game shouldn’t have been as close as the final 3-2 scoreline suggests. The Mariners had the opportunity to put the game away early.
Seattle’s main opportunity came in the top of the first. Three straight hits saw them take a 1-0 lead and load the bases with just one out.
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However, the Mariners were only able to add one more run in the first inning. They had another RBI in the top of the second to make it 3-0, but that would be the end of the scoring for the road team.
The usual suspects did the majority of the damage in the lineup, i.e. Julio Rodriguez, Ty France and Eugenio Suarez. The trio combined for seven hits, two RBI and three runs.
Kelenic equals career-high with his bat
The main headline on offense however, was a certain Jarred Kelenic. Hope springs eternal with the 2018 sixth overall draft pick, but he has so far failed to deliver consistently with his bat.
For one game at least though, Kelenic lived up to the hype with three hits, a stolen base and one RBI. The three hits equaled a career-high, set during his rookie year in 2021.
As a result, the 23-year-old’s batting average has shot up to .304. Yes it’s still early, but it doesn’t change the fact he’s looking more comfortable with his bat compared to his first two years in the Majors.
It is noticeable in several ways, including Kelenic showing more patience in not swinging as often on the first pitch. He is also focusing more on just getting a hit, rather than trying to make something big happen.
Kelenic sounded confident but humble, when speaking to the media about his play. He said:
“Right now I’m just really comfortable and seeing the pitches really well, but I’ve just got to keep doing it … I’m focused on trying to get my pitch and really trying to carry that over into two strikes. I did a good job of it tonight.”
Overall, Servais was just happy (relieved) to get the victory in challenging conditions. He said:
“It’s not easy to win these games. It was really cold on that field tonight, with the wind blowing in off the lake. It’s nice to get a series win and hopefully we’ll get one more tomorrow, before we head to Chicago.”
Moving forward, Gonzales talked about the rejuvenated attitude of the ball club. He said:
“We’re a new team, we’re not looking back. We’re trying to create our own path and find our identity within ourselves. That’s part of what we do well. When we click on all cylinders, I think we’re one of the best teams in the league.”
Mariners fans will of course be hoping their ball club can play better and live up to Gonzales’ assessment. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, if you don’t perform with consistency.
How confident are you Kelenic can continue hitting well for a consistent period of time? More generally speaking, what impressed you most about the Mariners on Saturday? Let us know in the comments section below.