I always wince when the annual Mariners/White Sox series in Chicago rolls around. Whether it comes in the form of a true gutpunch loss or a run-of-the-mill beatdown, Guaranteed Rate Field has long held a reputation of bringing Mariner sadness, and last night’s resounding loss was no exception. With the gauntlet of Cleveland looming, getting at the very least one win in this house of horrors was absolutely imperative.
Fortunately, Marco Gonzales stepped up to the challenge, pitching arguably his best start as a Mariner. While the White Sox came right out of the gate with base hits to left from Tim Anderson and Yólmer Sanchez, some truly hilarious baserunning gifted Gonzales an out:
Flashing shades of Mike Zunino and Daniel Vogelbach’s adventure from last night, Anderson was nabbed trying to take third. Four pitches later, José Abreu bounced into a double play, and the White Sox threat was vanquished.
Marco had every pitch working for him today, and facing a lineup of solely right-handed hitters, leaned heavily on his secondary offerings. The changeup was a consistent offering throughout his outing, but Gonzales attacked hitters with his curve the first time through the order, and showed great command with it - poor Leury García stood no chance here:
Sadly, through the first three innings, the M’s couldn’t get anything off of Chris Volstad. The 6’8” right-hander coaxed grounder after grounder out of Seattle’s lineup, and was spotting his big, loopy curveball very well. In the top of the fourth, Kyle Seager finally broke the ice with a double to right-center, and in stepped our friend Mitch Haniger:
Haniger staying on a third straight perfectly located curve and smacking it back up the middle at 101 MPH was a gorgeous sight to see. While it almost looks like he’s lunging towards the ball, he was able to get the barrel on it, beat the shift, and give the Mariners a slim one-run lead. You’d like more in this bandbox of a ballpark, but a lead’s a lead, right?
With a run to work with, Gonzales adjusted his game plan going through the order again. Swapping out his curveball for the cutter, he generated a boatload of weak contact, and even though Seager’s two errors did him no favors, Jean Segura chipped in with a lovely play:
The sixth inning was easily the biggest test Gonzales faced all day. Facing the boogeyman of the third time through the order, Marco gave up a leadoff hit to Anderson, and beared down to strike out both Sánchez and Abreu, using exactly two fastballs out of nine pitches to dispatch them. Although a Welington Castillo single put runners on the corners, Gonzales dismissed Matt Davidson on three pitches, though one could say that Davidson had a legitimate gripe:
While a leadoff double from Yoan Moncada in the seventh ended Gonzales’s day, he was outstanding across his whole start. He collected thirteen swinging strikes out of 89 total pitches, he located all of his pitches well, and most importantly, conquered the third time through the order. His curveball and cutter both showed real ability, and having two more good pitches in his arsenal would bode very well for both Marco and the Mariners.
Dan Altavilla and Marc Rzepczynski (!) snuffed out the White Sox’s hopes in the seventh and Juan Nicasio had a clean eighth (with the help of one Mike Zunino, of course), but the M’s bats couldn’t get anything going against Héctor Santiago or Nate Jones. The bottom of the ninth was nigh, the score still just 1-0. Edwin Díaz had struggled mightily in his last outing on Saturday, throwing over forty pitches and repeatedly flying open in his delivery. It would be so very Mariners @ White Sox to lose a game 2-1 on a blown save...
Nothing to fear! Díaz was his usual dominant self and the Mariners escaped with a rare 1-0 win in Chicago. For the first time of the year, the M’s pitched a shutout, and while getting just one run instead of multiple off of the Volstad/Santiago tandem was a mild bummer, for today that was all the team needed.
Félix goes up against James Shields tomorrow morning, a matchup that would have garnered significant buzz about five years ago. Shields has struggled mightily since 2016, and what started out as a sad series suddenly is on the brink of being a fun one. We’ll see you then.