Kelenic, Hernandez and Gonzales help power Mariners to an impressive victory in Philadelphia versus the defending NL champions.
The Mariners are in the midst of a run of facing quality opponents over a 21-game stretch (with the exception of Oakland). The latest challenge saw them heading to Philadelphia, to play a series versus the reigning National League champions.
For one game at least however, the Mariners showed what they were capable of in a 5-3 win over the Philles. They were helped in no small part by Marco Gonazles, who was not originally scheduled to pitch on Tuesday evening.
The start was meant to go to Logan Gilbert. Due to muscle spasms in the back of his right shoulder however, Gilbert was pushed back in the rotation.
Fortunately for Gonzales, he came in with five days rest thanks in part to two off-days. Subsequently, he was able to carry over the fine form from his previous outing versus Milwaukee.
Different strategy but similar results
In an interesting change, the 31-year-old used a different strategy in mostly throwing secondary pitches. Despite this approach he displayed excellent command, as evidenced by 55 of his 75 pitches going for strikes.
Gonzales manufactured just two strikeouts on the day. However, this doesn’t take anything away from only allowing four hits, a walks and one run during his five innings of action.
The 2013 first round draft pick gave up just two hits as he flew through four scoreless innings. It was only in his final inning that he allowed his one run, courtesy of a solo homer by Edmundo Sosa.
It was after the fifth, that the Mariners elected to take Gonzales out of the game. This was due to him being scheduled to face the top of the lineup for the third time, combined with the bullpen being rested.
Gonzales was asked after the game about the accuracy of his location and how focused he looked. He said:
“It felt really good. The past couple of games I feel like I’ve been locked in. The work that I put in through spring training and the first couple of games of the year, I feel like I’m not trying to do too much. That’s when I’ve gotten into trouble in the past, is trying to reach back and over-throw and I feel like I’ve settled into my grove and just try to execute. I feel like that’s when I’m at my best.”
Mariners manager Scott Servais was delighted with Gonzales’ performance. Speaking to the media, he said:
“Marco again with another good outing after what he did last time out at home. It was great to see. He had his changeup going, he kept them off-speed and off-balance for the most part all night.”
No stopping Kelenic
Gonzales secured his second win of the year on the day, due to leaving the game with a 2-1 lead. And of course it was Jarred Kelenic who opened the scoring, with a solo home run in the top of the fifth.
It was Kelenic’s third consecutive game with a homer and his seventh of the year. He is leading the team in this category and it is also tied for sixth-most in the Majors.
For the game as a whole, the 23-year-old had three hits in four at-bats. Of more importance and to show how far he’s come, the hits all came versus lefties.
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Kelenic had struggled during his first two years in the Majors versus southpaws. This season however, he is 8-for-19 against left-handed pitching.
At this rate, the 2018 sixth overall draft pick is going to play himself into July’s All-Star Game in Seattle. Entering Wednesday’s action, he is eighth in the Majors in batting average and third in OPS.
Servais must be running out of ways to praise Kelenic, not that he will be minding the challenge. He said:
“Jarred’s in such a good spot. (Against) left-handed pitching he’s hitting homers, doubles. … It doesn’t matter who’s out on the mound right now. He is so locked in on his approach and what he’s doing. (We’re) really excited that he’s gained the confidence he has. He knows he belongs.”
Jose Caballero was the main contributor in Seattle’s other run in the inning, first reaching base with a hit. He stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error and finally brought home by a J.P. Crawford single.
Hernandez continues to shine
The Mariners would score another two runs in the top of the sixth, to take a commanding 4-1 lead. This time it was Teoscar Hernandez‘s turn in the limelight, with him also on a hot tear of late, a la Kelenic.
After managing just one hit during his first five games in a Mariners uniform, there has been no stopping Hernandez ever since. His two-run blast was the sixth of the year, with the promise of many more to come.
To date, the 30-year-old’s slash line is .244/.281/.478. However, he is .288/.312/.562 since his poor start.
Servais is not surprised to see how well Hernandez has been hitting of late. He said:
“Teo has really picked it up here. He doesn’t get enough credit for picking it up after his slow start. How he’s swinging the bat is great to see. … He’s going to do some damage and at the end of the year you’re going to look up and his numbers are going to be like ‘Wow!’ He’s got special power for sure.”
It helps that Hernandez has actually been on the field to play through his early struggles. For various reasons, this is only the second time in eight seasons he has played a full April.
The Mariners’ off-season trade acquisition was asked about being a volume guy and just wanting to play as much as possible. He said:
“I’m one of those guys, it doesn’t matter. If I can run, I’m going to be there. If my legs are good, I’m going to be on the field playing, doing the best I can for the team.”
Mariners bullpen causes some angst
With Seattle leading 4-1, first up out of the bullpen was Matt Brash in the bottom of the sixth. Servais may believe in him and he might have top-level talent, but it doesn’t change the fact he continues to struggle.
In this respect, Brash soon found himself facing a one-out bases-loaded situation. Fortunately for the Mariners he only allowed the one run in the inning, but his 5.91 ERA and 1.69 WHIP are cause for concern.
Seattle managed to get a bit of extra insurance in the top of the seventh, to increase their lead to 5-2. Cal Raleigh hit a lead-off triple before being brought home, courtesy of a Caballero sacrifice fly.
As the Mariners are prone to do, there was still time for some more panic for fans, as the Phillies got to within 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth. However, Paul Sewald remained calm – calmer than the watching audience — to clinch the win with his seventh save of the season.
Next up, the Mariners will attempt to win the series with a game to spare. Gilbert will take the mound in his rescheduled start on Wednesday evening.
As Kelenic continues to soar, how realistic is it to consider him a contender for the All-Star game in Seattle? The outfielder aside, what stood out for you most in the Mariners’ opening game win versus the Phillies? Let us know in the comments section below.