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Mariners read self-improvement book, refuse to let Royals win opener again

Mariners do the opposite of let the past haunt them, win 4-1

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Seattle Mariners
when you are proud of your buddy for improving
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

After opening up at home with a series win against Cleveland, the plucky little band of Mariners set out on their first road trip of the season and promptly got punched in the nose with a blowout loss in San Francisco, a cold and miserable slog through Minnesota’s frozen tundra, and then showed up in Kansas City, where the weather wasn’t much better but the team was supposed to be worse. The Royals, however, jumped all over Marco Gonzales while Jake Junis throttled the Mariners’ bats, en route to a 10-0 blowout. Marco’s final line was 2.1 innings, 8 hits, 4 earned runs, 4 strikeouts and one walk.

It was a disappointing performance from the young lefty, who had showed so much promise during the spring and was coming off a strong outing (6.1 IP, 6H, 3ER) against San Francisco. Marco was still at the time very much an unproven commodity; questions persisted about how many times he’d be able to go through the order, how well that surgically repaired elbow would hold up, if he was going to revert to the afterthought pitcher he was in St. Louis, a bullpen arm shuttling back and forth between Triple-A and the big club. When he landed in Seattle, Mariners fans decried his lack of options compared to the young, promising slugger he’d been traded for, Seattle’s lone prospect of national note in Tyler O’Neill. His disastrous outing against the Royals was followed by two other performances where he failed to make it to the sixth inning, even as his peripherals looked good. The strikeout numbers couldn’t hold, analysts said. Regression was coming for the young lefty. Even as Marco strung together solid outing after solid outing, it was too soon to tell.

It’s a different Marco Gonzales who took the mound tonight. It’s no longer too soon to tell. Marco’s numbers have settled right in around those of a mid-rotation starter. He’ll still get lit up at times—again, despite his age, Marco is still going through a series of firsts. First time starting in Yankee Stadium. First time starting at Fenway. He’s ten innings shy of another first: his first time pitching 100 innings in a season at the MLB level.

Tonight Marco collected another first: first complete game in MLB. (He was one Mike Moustakas single away from his first CGSO/Maddux, but let’s not get too greedy.) He took the mound and offered a nine-inning demonstration of how far he’s come, how far this team has come, since that chilly series back in April. Marco had excellent command of all his pitches, effortlessly gliding back and forth across the zone, dropping pitches in low and away and inducing ugly reaching contact, and then wrong-footing batters by popping one high in the zone. He constantly worked ahead of batters, throwing 23 of 31 first-pitch strikes, and surrendered only one “free” pass, a HBP because Lucas Duda is approximately the size of a young grizzly bear. Meanwhile, he collected seven strikeouts, including this trickeration of the aforementioned Duda:

Marco got some help from excellent infield defense, as well; I almost feel like we take it for granted, how strong the combination of Seager-Segura-Gordon is with Ryon picking everything that’s thrown to him—plus Mike Z doing Mike Z things—it’s hard to appreciate them enough. My notebook is filled with tiny stars from nice plays and a huge star cluster in the third when Seager robbed Dozier of a potential double with a great stab and throw (with a nice stretch by Healy).

Meanwhile, the offense also showed that they’ve taken steps forward, too, as Haniger and Zunino each checked in with home runs. The M’s offense was a little slow to get going as they tried to figure out Ian Kennedy, whom they didn’t see last time in KC, but Jean and Mitch put their heads together in the fourth and came up with this beauty:

Meanwhile, Mike Zunino has been telling people his swing feels good, and Mike Zunino feeling good means some baseballs are about to feel really, really bad:

You know you done good when Nelson Cruz is impressed:

Lest you think these Mariners are imbalanced, they did manufacture a run, as well, when Guillermo and Dee both got on base via the walk (!) and Jean Jean the Hitting Machine singled Guillermo home. [NOTE: I’m sorry Jean I know you think it’s too much pressure to be called “the hitting machine” but what then are we to call you when you hit like this? n’est pas une hitting machine?] Anyway let’s have a live look-in at Guillermo:

SAME. VERY SAME, GUILLERMO.

*

Programming note:

Tomorrow night is the much-anticipated Turn Ahead the Clock Night and I am thrilled to tell you that Amanda, who was in attendance at the original TATC night, will be recapping it for you, so make sure to tune in for that recap because if I know Mandy, it’s going to be chock-full of historical tidbits and interesting things. See you all tomorrow?