Logan Gilbert leads the way with an extremely efficient eight-inning performance, as Mariners edge ever-closer to a wild card position.
At the risk of kicking a franchise when it’s down, thank goodness for the Athletics. The underachieving Mariners needed a series like this, in their attempts to get the season back on track.
Not that winning all four games versus any opponent — no matter how poor — is a given. Regardless, the Mariners took advantage by sweeping the series, going two wins above .500 for the first time in 2023 and climbing to within 2.5 games of a precious wild card position.
Leading the way was Logan Gilbert, who had arguably his best outing of the season. Not that it started out that way, as he allowed a two-run homer in the top of the first for an early 2-0 deficit for Seattle.
As much as Gilbert would have been annoyed with himself due to his ultra-competitive nature, he didn’t allow the early blast to impact him negatively. Discussing his mindset after the score, he said:
“I feel better about that this year. This year I feel comfortable with who I am as a person, as a pitcher and feel like things don’t shake me as much.”
Gilbert settles in and then some
To say Gilbert felt comfortable is an understatement. He cranked his game up a few gears and proceeded to dominate Oakland the rest of the way.
The righty retired 22 of the next 23 batters he faced, allowing just a solitary single. Perhaps most impressive, he took just 77 pitches to get through eight innings.
This led to a tough decision for Mariners manager Scott Servais, on whether to leave Gilbert in to go for a complete game. The pitcher certainly wanted to return, but was instead replaced by Paul Sewald to close things out.
Servais explained his thinking to the media after the game. He said:
“It’s not an easy call. Obviously he had pitches left and plenty in the tank. There’s a lot of things that play into these decision. What the game feels like there, but I thought he did an awesome job tonight. There’s not a day off before his next start. We’re going to ask so much of our starting pitching as the season goes along. We had a rested bullpen tonight. Your closer’s down there, who’s having a great season as well.”
Another aspect helping making the decision, was the fact the Mariners had a lead. If the game was tied for example, Gilbert likely would have been kept in.
France leads the Mariners offense
In this respect, the Mariners only took the lead late on, in the eighth inning. They had what can be described as an almost too regular subpar night with the bats, managing just five hits.
One of the few productive bats was Ty France, who had only just returned from a wrist injury. His impact was immediate, hitting a solo home run on the very first pitch he faced, to bring Seattle to within 2-1 in the bottom of the opening inning.
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France repeated the trick in the bottom of the sixth, to tie the game at 2-2. It also represented his first multi-homer game in a Mariners uniform.
Despite the lack of production by Seattle’s offense, they still managed to load the bases in the bottom of the eighth. Eugenio Suarez subsequently drew a walk for what would be the winning run.
A tough decision for Servais
With the lead now in place, Servais turned to Sewald. The Mariners manager gets a lot of criticism about his pitching decision-making and you can just imagine the uproar if things had gone wrong, especially with Gilbert throwing so well.
In fairness though, Sewald has not failed to convert a save attempt yet this season. And so it would continue, with his 11th save in 11 attempts to seal the 3-2 win and the four-game sweep for Seattle.
Afterwards, France alluded to the offense’s inconsistency, but at the same time discussed how they do whatever they can to produce. He said:
“That’s how we win baseball games. That’s just the kind of team we are. We’re not going to come out and put up 10 runs every single night and slug them to death. So I’m not surprised by the at-bats we took.”
The Mariners are just fortunate their rotation is so strong. Gilbert’s outing represented the 28th quality start for a Seattle pitcher this year, the most in the Majors.
Everything clicking for Gilbert
While it’s still (relatively) early, the 26-year-old is on course for his strongest year yet in the Majors. Current projections would lead to single-season career bests for WHIP and FIP, as well as strikeouts and walks per nine innings.
Servais is certainly appreciative of how well Gilbert is throwing. He said:
“Logan is rolling right now. He’s got all four pitches working. He’s got a ton of confidence. It’s fun to watch.”
Gilbert agreed that he has all four of his pitches working at once. He said:
“It’s probably the first time in my career that, consistently, I’d say it’s been that way. Going into Spring Training, I was kind of testing the waters and felt really good about it. The slider, where that’s been somewhat inconsistent in the past, I felt really good about that. (Also with) the curveball. So, after a couple of starts here, and working with the catchers, seeing when the stuff plays the best, I think I’m feeling pretty good.”
Gilbert was understandably also asked about missing out on going for a complete game. He said:
“For sure. I always want to keep going, especially at that point and being so close to the end there. I thought I might have a chance with the pitch count where it’s at, but we’ve got the best bullpen in baseball.”
Certainly, the Mariners relievers are among the strongest units in the Majors. Following Thursday’s action, their bullpen has the third-lowest team ERA in all of baseball.
As an aside, it’s worth noting Julio Rodriguez had two of Seattle’s five hits on the night. The Oakland series has been a breath of fresh air for the struggling hitter, with eight hits seeing his batting average jump from .204 to .227.
However, the final words should be about the star of the night. Speaking about Gilbert, France said:
“He’s mixing his pitches a lot more, and I think that’s helping him. It saves him pitches in the long run. He’s not trying to strike everyone out anymore. He knows he’s got a really good defense behind him, and we’re ready to work for him.”
Fair or not, you can’t take a sweep of the Athletics too seriously, when it comes to assessing how good the Mariners are. Moving forward, how confident are you about Seattle’s chances of winning their next series versus Pittsburgh? Let us know in the comments section below.
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