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M’s Reign, Pour Runs on Rangers

Marco Gonzales gets first W as a Mariner; Jeff Banister can’t handle heat, is ejected from kitchen

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

It seems odd in retrospect that tonight’s game started with this little web gem from Jean Segura:

That was back when the score was 0-0, a tabula rasa upon which the M’s hoped to scratch out some runs in support of their struggling starting pitcher—a microcosm of the 2017 Mariners season that has required the offense to bail out a beleaguered pitching staff (to varying levels of success) for essentially the entire year.

Let’s just say this one wasn’t 0-0 for long.

Nelson Cruz and Yonder Alonso got the pot stirring in the top of the 2nd with a pair of singles off Rangers starter Miguel Gonzalez. And after Mike Zunino singled home Cruz for the first run of the game, the stage was set for Ben Gamel:

That was Gamel’s second 3-run homer in four games, and he would go on to add 2 more hits later on to finish the day 3-5, earning himself Swelmet honors.

Rangers rookie Willie Calhoun responded in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI single in his first MLB at bat to make it 4-1.

Fortunately the M’s bats picked up right where they left off in the 2nd, and after a Mitch Haniger infield hit to start the inning followed by a Robinson Canó double, the stage was set for Kyle Seager:

Seager’s 150th career dinger gave Seattle a 7-1 lead, and put starter Marco Gonzales in line for his first win as a Mariner.

Of course no Mariners lead is safe in 2017, and in the bottom of the 3rd, Gonzales surrendered 4 singles amounting to 2 runs, narrowing the score to 7-3.

Things could have gotten out of hand in a hurry—lord knows we’ve seen it happen before. But major credit to Marco who buckled down and cruised through the next 2 innings barely breaking a sweat. By the time all was said and done, he had gone 5 innings (a season high), striking out 6 (also a season high), with only a single walk to his name. None of his 7 hits were for extra bases, and despite allowing 3 runs, Fangraphs listed his FIP at 1.35 on the game, easily his best start of the season.

Here’s Marco working his sinker inside to freeze Nomar Mazara, who at that point had already tallied two hits:

It is worth mentioning that Gonzales did get help from home plate umpire Jeff Nelson, who despite allowing a little leeway with his strike zone (supported by some season-best framing from Zunino), did not extend that same leeway to Rangers manager Jeff Banister, whom he ejected in the 4th inning. Here’s what that looked like in real time:

The M’s offense, on the other hand, was not done scoring.

Zunino picked up his second RBI of the game on a fielder’s choice in the 5th, and in the 6th, Canó raised Haniger’s double off the top left field fence (a 108 mph scorcher) with a double off the LITERAL top of the right field fence to extend the lead to 9-3:

The M’s would later add one more run in the 7th as Segura walked with the bases loaded to score Seager.

Meanwhile, a parade of Mariners relievers followed Gonzales with moderate to extreme success—James Pazos struck out the side in the 6th, Dan Altavilla allowed a pair of walks but kept both runners from scoring in the 7th, Shae Simmons retired the Rangers in order in the 8th—and none of them would surrender another hit until the 9th inning, when Casey Lawrence, AKA Garbage Time King, AKA Triangle Man, allowed a pair of singles before closing the game out.

The final score was 10-3.

Tonight the offense was truly firing on all cylinders—nearly every member of the starting lineup contributed to the cause, and Canó, Gamel, Alonso, Zunino, and Haniger (who now has 24 hits in his last 50 at bats) tallied multi-hit performances.

Of course, when the Mariners score 10 runs, it doesn’t really matter who starts the game. But while the story of tonight was the offense, Marco Gonzales (with a little help from his battery mate) contributed his best start of the season, demonstrating discipline, resilience, and more than enough command to take advantage of the strike zone he was given.

Gonzales now passes the baton to Mike Leake tomorrow, with Félix and Paxton set to return to the rotation Thursday and Friday, respectively. It sure is nice when the M’s offense can collect a few buckets when their pitchers have really earned it, and Gonzales certainly earned it tonight.

But they should still feel free to score 10 runs regardless.

Go M’s.