After a hot start to the season that saw him winning AL Pitcher of the Month in April, Logan Gilbert had been struggling some in August: his ERA for the month had ballooned to almost 6.75, with an FIP of 5.06. His strikeouts plummeted, and his walks rose, leaving Gilbert searching for answers. One answer, he said, came partly in tweaking his slider grip, allowing him more consistency and command with the pitch. So far in September, Gilbert has been a one-man wrecking crew. His K% has jumped to a career-high 34.3% while lowering his walk rate to a stingy 6%, and he hasn’t allowed a homer this month. And that data doesn’t even include today, when he manhandled the Angels over six innings of work, striking out a career-high 11 batters and helping stop a slide that had seen a depleted Mariners team lose the first three games of this series.
Gilbert set the tone early. After the Mariners jumped out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to J.P. Crawford leading off with a single and Ty France stroking a double into the left field corner to score J.P., Gilbert was determined to keep the Angels off the board in the bottom of the first. It required 19 pitches, most of which was spent fighting Ohtani in a 12-pitch battle, but Gilbert emerged victorious:
It should also be mentioned that Gilbert got some pitch count-saving help from Toro on the third out with an able backhanded play:
After that, Gilbert put on his Walter hat and struck out the side in the second, all swinging, blowing a fastball past Taylor Ward at 97 and getting Thaiss and Ford both chasing after his slider. That slider was key for Gilbert today, as the Angels hitters just couldn’t find it; he threw it about a third of the time, racking up an outrageous 50% whiff rate on the pitch. Any traffic Gilbert had on the bases, he was able to work around: in the third, Livan Soto snuck a ground ball through the four-hole for the Angels’ first hit of the day, but Gilbert struck out Sierra on the slider and got the troublesome Rengifo to ground out harmlessly.
Gilbert got into a spot of trouble in the bottom of the fourth: with two outs, including a strikeout of Ohtani, Taylor Ward shot a single up the middle and then Matt Thaiss walked on some very close pitches, bringing up Former Friend Mike Ford. After a little pep talk from J.P., Gilbert engaged Walter Mode and struck out Ford on three pitches—the slider again, natch—to shut down the Angels.
The Mariners offense was slow to get going, and suffered from a bad case of Sequenceitis early on. J.P. Crawford hit a one-out triple in the third, and was stranded. Sam Haggerty hit a two-out double in the fourth, and was stranded. Finally, in the fifth, Carlos Santana had had enough. Angels starter Jose Suárez had been dancing into and out of trouble all day, but in the fifth he suffered a complete loss of command: he walked Curt Casali, not exactly an offensive threat, on four pitches, before allowing a single to Mitch Haniger and hitting Ty France on the foot with a pitch. That brought up Carlos Santana with two outs, who showed why a veteran presence can be a blessing for a team as he patiently waited out a struggling Suarez, who fell behind 3-0. After Santana declined to swing at a strike in the middle of the plate, Suarez made a pretty good challenge pitch—a 91.5 MPH fastball on the outer part of the plate. If he missed, it’d be a walk, minimal damage; if he didn’t and Santana didn’t swing, it’d be an inning-ending strikeout; if Santana did swing, he probably wouldn’t make very good contact.
About that last part:
Today Carlos truly lived up to the nickname Slamtana. This 108 MPH rifle shot had the highest EV of the game. It was his 18th homer of the season, 277th of his career, and as he said later, it was his mom’s birthday, so he wanted to get her something special.
It's his mom's birthday today pic.twitter.com/nicKCAQUY8— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) September 19, 2022
Thank you, Carlos’s mom, for sharing your gift with Mariners fans.
Armed with a five-run lead, Walter/Logan came back out in the fifth to blank the Angels again, striking out Moniak, this time busting out the knuckle curve for a called strikeout—his ninth strikeout, tying a career high, and somehow his first called strikeout of the day. Gilbert then followed that up with a strikeout swinging to Sierra, setting a new career high, and thanks to his efficiency with his pitches (aside from the Ohtani 12-pitch festival to lead off the game), he had at least one inning left in the tank.
The Angels finally got to Gilbert in the sixth. With one out, Ohtani, who had already struck out twice, tagged Gilbert with a double down the line; that was followed by some hard contact allowed to Matt Duffy—Dylan Moore almost made an incredible catch in center but couldn’t hold on, putting runners at second and third. A sac fly off the bat of Taylor Ward brought home a run, but then Gilbert was able to put away Matt Thaiss with his new career-high 11th strikeout, another one swinging, this time on some 98 MPH gas on Gilbert’s 98th pitch of the day:
Logan Gilbert hitting 98 MPH on his 98th pitch of the day for his career-high 11th strikeout, capped with a primal roar/stare from Walter: pic.twitter.com/XgdCZUj0dp— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) September 19, 2022
Gilbert would finish having thrown 61% first pitch strikes, with 66% of his total pitches thrown for strikes. He was absolutely dominant at a time the Mariners needed him the most, just like he had been back in mid-April, when the Mariners were on a four-game losing streak and he led them to a 5-1 victory over the White Sox; he did the same thing on May 1, allowing just three hits and one run to an at-the-time hot Marlins team after the Mariners had lost four in a row.
However, it takes offense to back up a strong pitching performance—there are times this season when Gilbert did all he could to stop a losing streak, but the offense let him down (see: his back-to-back starts against Houston in July when he gave up just two runs each outing and was tagged with one loss and one no-decision). Luckily, that wasn’t a problem today as the Mariners continued to pour it on against the Angels’ downy-soft bullpen. Zack Weiss was able to hold off the Mariners in the sixth, but opened the seventh by hitting J.P. Crawford with a slider and then walking Mitch Haniger on five pitches. Ty France took the opportunity to get right, doing his best Trout imitation and sending this ball over the center-field wall; hilariously, the ball traveled right over an ad for French frozen yogurt with a little French flag in the middle:
Later, Carlos Santana got his mom an extra gift, adding a solo homer to make it 9-1 Mariners.
Meanwhile, Matt Boyd, Diego Castillo, and Penn Murfee held things down for the Mariners’ bullpen, making sure there would be no comeback and sweep from the Angels. Boyd made quick work of the Angels in the seventh, setting them down 1-2-3 and concluding on a four-pitch strikeout of Livan Soto where the rookie didn’t take the bat off his shoulder. Boyd touched 95 with his fastball, a good sign as he continues to return to form after missing most of this season, and didn’t have a ball get out of the infield on him. Boyd ran into a little trouble in the eighth, giving up a but then it was the Angels’ turn to strand the bases loaded when Diego Castillo came on. Feels good when it’s not us! Murfee closed things out, and although all of the relievers allowed a little more traffic than you’d like, they each recorded at least a strikeout to give the Mariners pitching staff 15 punchouts on the day. Again, feels very good when it is not us.
With this victory, the Mariners salvage one game out of what would have been a sweep if not for the stupid lockout schedule, so I guess thanks owners? Also, the Mariners get the pleasure of officially eliminating the Angels from playoff contention. Kick rocks, Phil Nevin & co.
The Mariners head up the coast now to Oakland for a three-game set with the Athletics before getting on a plane to Kansas City to close out their final road trip of the season. If you’re able, we’ll be watching Saturday’s game against the Royals at Growler Guys on Lake City Way at 4:10. We had a blast last time so please come on through if you’re able!