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Mariners win first walk-off of the year, 6-3 over Pirates

Seattle takes another series

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Having Marco Gonzales in the rotation is a lot like using soap to wash a cast iron skillet: it makes a bunch of people really mad, but it’s actually totally fine. Today was a prime example of his competence as a fifth starter.

Marco’s cutter was the tip of his spear when he broke out in 2018, but it’s lost its bite over the past few seasons and Marco’s value has deteriorated with it. But Cleveland beating him up in his first start seemed to be the final straw, and the bulldog cut the cutter after that. To be fair to his detractors, there was a possibility that his other three pitches, which are good, would lose their effectiveness. If hitters couldn’t wait out a cookie cutter, maybe they’d attack the other three more viciously. But they didn’t. And now, in his past two starts, he’s re-introduced the cutter sparingly, using it to mix things up and help keep hitters off balance. He threw just nine of them today, a perfect amount to keep Pittsburgh off balance. Those nine cutters picked up three called strikes, as well as three weak foul balls and two outs. Marco doesn’t get a lot of whiffs or a lot of strikeouts. He just finesses his way through lineup after lineup, and it looks like he’s figured out how to use his cutter effectively.

His final line today shows four strikeouts to three walks, but he made it through 5.2 innings giving up just one run. It’s also worth noting that his K/B ratio could easily have been 5/2 if not for Rodolfo Castro fouling off two very good 3-2 pitches.

People get down on Marco for the lack of wipeout stuff. But even though the fastballs came in around 89, dude could throw them at 79 and make it work if he keeps doing it like this.

Given the velocity, I don’t think we can call this a ring of fire, but how about a ring of embers

Charts like that are why I will never stop finding it funny how angry Marco’s haters get. It’s one of those things that maybe seems like it shouldn’t be true, but it is. In a group of 23 people, there’s a 50-50 chance that two people share a birthday. Your hair grows faster in warm weather. Marco Gonzales is a good pitcher. Deal with it.

On the other side of the ball, the offense got things started early, with Julio Rodríguez hitting a first-inning moonshot that just made it over the fence.

Don’t look now, but Julio’s wRC+ is up to 110, and that’s with two outs today on balls hit harder than 108 mph. Not to go galaxy brain or anything, but boy, this team is so much better when Julio is going good.

Cal Raleigh matched Julio with a moonshot of his own, this one to right field. Both home runs were launched at 43 degrees, a fun fact on its own, made all the more fun by 43 degrees being a tie for the second-highest launch angle on a Statcast-Era home run in T-Mobile Park. (Kyle Seager is number one, of course, with a 44-degree bomb.)

Just to mix things up, Jarred put the third run on the board with a line drive instead, sending a hot shot down the opposite field line. And despite the improbability of Julio and Cal’s bombs, this was the more impressive hit.

Indeed, it was a great first nine innings for Jarred, who also walked in the first inning and was rung up on a pitch pretty egregiously below the zone. In his fourth at-bat, he laced a ball at 107.4 mph, but it was caught. That’s a great day.

Still, that 107-mph lineout sticks out since it was immediately followed by Andrew McCutchen’s Baltimore chop that started a sequence wherein the Pirates tied the game at 3-3. You’d rather be lucky than good, I guess.

It was at this point that I started collecting clips of Anaheim’s disasterthon loss to the Marlins as a salve to a rough recap. What’s that? You want them anyway. No problem.

Anyway, that 3-3 tie lasted into the tenth inning. With just three arms left in the bullpen, Scott Servais called on Maple Valley’s own, Tayler Saucedo. It’s always easy to root for a local kid, at least when that local kid isn’t Steven Souza. But Sauce manages to make himself even more relatable by having the look and demeanor of a substitute teacher who’s lost control of the class. Today, he somehow amplified that vibe by almost letting things get out of hand in extra innings. When he let the bases get loaded, the game’s leverage index reached its peak. We all held our breath.

Sauce reared back for his third strikeout of the inning, and he did it in front of 38,000 fans while wearing his home town across his chest.

“You come to these games as a kid, you see that, and then you get to live in that moment. It was just like those emotions just kind of came out of me, and I’m super excited just to be in there and to keep my team in the game,” he said after the game. “The Mariners since I’ve been here, they just said they believed in me 100%, no matter what. Being a part of this, it’s been so great. I just–I can’t appreciate it enough.”

You know what? Let’s look at it again.

That roar gave the Mariners a chance to walk off their first game of the year. With two outs, Jarred Kelenic came back into the box, or at least he was supposed to. See, he never made it to the plate because the Pirates INTENTIONALLY WALKED JARRED KELENIC. This wasn’t a set-up-the-force situation either. The winning run was on third base and there were two outs. The Pirates just didn’t want to face Jarred. Turns out his great day didn’t stop after nine innings.

This was actually the second time Jarred’s gotten that treatment in the past four days. On Thursday, intetionally walking Jarred resulted in the A’s walking in the winning run. Today, it resulted in Eugenio Suárez giving this quote after the game: “I’m not trying to hit a home run.” You know what that means. I had been really torn between Marco, Julio, and Jarred for today’s Sun Hat Award for notable individual contribution to a game. But sometimes these things are just out of my hands: