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Dee Gordon collects his 1,000th career hit, Mariners collect their 16th win, Yusei Kikuchi collects his first win

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels
Dee, transcendent
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

A 5-foot-11, 150 pound middle infielder, Gordon is the son of major leaguer Tom Gordon, and like his father is undersized...Scouts have difficulty wrapping their head around Gordon, as he’ll turn 22 in April yet still plays with the rawness of an 18-year-old. He needs to develop a more patient approach at the plate, and while he has all of the tools to be a plus shortstop, he’s so sloppy there that some scouts would like to see him tried in center field. His thin, lanky frame has no power projection...To be blunt, I think he’s one of the most overhyped prospects of recent memory. I don’t see him hitting for BA or power and I also am not a fan of his defense. Outside of speed/athleticism, I’m not impressed...Gordon’s lofty projection is more fantastical than real-world future...As a singles-hitting, error-prone SS, whose only skill appears to be speed, he is not my cup of tea.

It’s arguable that if Dee Gordon had had any other last name, he wouldn’t have been given much prospect treatment at all. His speed would have turned some heads, as would his raw athleticism—one prospect writer confused him for a Latin American signee, lacking the “polish” of a typical college player—but without the last name Gordon, without the pedigree of being Tom Gordon’s Son, it’s possible, even probable, that the Dodgers don’t stick their necks out to draft Devaris Strange-Gordon in the fourth round from Seminole Community College, where a transcript issue kept him from playing that season.

But beyond his famous father, Dee Gordon has always been his own best advocate.

Tonight, trying to speak to reporters about his 1,000th career hit over blaring country music, Dee called over to a staff member: “hey, if that was rap, that’d be turned down by now.” The music was turned down, and the soft-spoken Gordon was able to continue with his interview. He spoke about how many—including the prospect writers excerpted above—didn’t see him getting to where he is, didn’t see him getting 100 hits, let alone 1,000. Then, as Dee often does, he was quick to shift the spotlight elsewhere, to celebrate Yusei Kikuchi’s first MLB win, and to speak highly of his teammates, who hit four home runs on the night. That’s what they do, he shrugged when a reporter asked if he’d foreseen bounceback seasons for players like Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce. Emphasis on the they.

But there are, it turns out, many ways to be a major league baseball player, and while Dee isn’t a likely candidate to bop a moonshot homer, he contributed to the win with the biggest hit of the night, a two-run single in the fourth that gave the Mariners their largest lead of the game. He contributed in the field, as well, holding down the middle infield, as he did the other night when he acted as field general on the Justin Bour bonehead extravaganza double play. And then there’s the contributions Dee makes just by being, well, Dee:

The Mariners do look like a re-invigorated team since leaving the Astros and Cleveland games behind them; it would have been easy for them to limp into Anaheim at the end of a punishing 14-game multi-city stint with another four games to go before earning an off-day and play subpar baseball. And while they haven’t been razor-sharp this series, they’ve done what they need to do, tonight giving Trevor Cahill all he could handle over four-plus innings, hanging five runs on him and tagging him for three homers—a pleasant change from when he effectively shut the Mariners offense down earlier this month.

The damage started early, with Mitch Haniger doing Mitch Haniger things in an 0-2 count:

And then Daniel Vogelbach continuing to seek pitches he can hit like he’s the high-score holder on the corner bar’s Big Buck Hunter machine:

After the Angels plated a run in the bottom of the third, Dee Gordon came up in the 4th inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Dee quickly fell into an 0-2 hole against Cahill, before lining an 81 mph curve on the outer edge of the plate down the left field line to plate two runs:

The Mariners got 23 of their offense tonight from dingers, but no hit scored more runs than Dee’s humble single. It might not be majestic in and of itself, but when taken in context:

The thing about a player like Dee Gordon is if you just take him in isolation—a scouting report—you don’t see how much he does to make everyone around him better, on and off the field. There’s a reason players like Mallex Smith and Shed Long revere Dee Gordon, and it’s not only because his success pads out the prospect profiles of the similarly-statured lads who come behind him. “Dee is like, the nicest guy I’ve ever met,” an A-level pitcher told me this spring training. Some people are just more than the sum of their parts.

Although dingers are, admittedly, fun. Both Edwin and Domingo Santana busted out of some mini-slumps tonight in a big way:

Even pre-Domingo-dinger, the Mariners were able to sustain their lead until Yusei Kikuchi departed after the fifth inning, putting him in line for his first MLB win. Kikuchi was good but not great in his fifth MLB start; his slider command wasn’t quite there in the early innings, and he got into a few lengthy battles with hitters early that damaged his pitch count. The fastball velocity looked good, sitting 92-95, and he was able to rear back and get up to 96 late in his outing, even as his command, especially of the curveball, faltered. His most impressive moment of the game probably came on this three-pitch strikeout of Trout, where he threw three fastballs (swinging strike, foul, called strike) all over the plate at 96-95-96:

MLB

That was just Trout’s second strikeout looking of the young season, and his first three-strikeout night of the season. In fact, coming into tonight Trout had only struck out six times in this season, meaning [frantic math-ing]...he struck out 50% more tonight than he has all season? I need to lie down. Also did I mention one of these strikeouts was dished out by Cory Gearrin?

Connor Sadzeck had the other one, in a strong relief appearance where he seemed to lean more heavily on his slider and use that to set up his occasionally-shaky fastball command. It worked out well for Sadzeck, who went slider-fastball-slider-fastball to Trout, eventually punching him out swinging at 98. Sadzeck wasn’t quite as effective coming out in the seventh, leading to some brief Panic at Zac Rosscup! and then some later drama with the aforementioned Gearrin v. Trout, and then Anthony Swarzak surrendering a home run to Albert Pujols that drew the Angels to within one.

when you’ve given up a late-game dinger to Albert Pujols and something has to pay

But Swarzak was able to buckle down and get last night’s goat, Justin Bour, one more time on a called strike three. Bour wasn’t happy, but to be fair, this was like, strike five or six:

The Mariners will close out the series against the Angels tomorrow, looking for the elusive Easter Sweep, and then enjoy a well-deserved off-day on Monday. Meanwhile, I will enjoy the fact that Dee Gordon is a Mariner, and recorded his 1,000th hit in Mariners uniform:

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels
best friends hug
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports