Some people are early risers. I am not, nor have ever been, and regard people who enjoy waking up with the sun with a mixture of befuddlement and suspicion. But I will wake up with the birds every morning if that energy somehow translates down to T-Mobile Park and stirs the Mariners’ sleepy offense, who let one get away from them today, dropping a game where Logan Gilbert was brilliant in his start to the Rangers, 2-1.
To reiterate: the pitching was mostly faultless in this loss, despite the two runs Gilbert allowed that would be all the Rangers needed to win. The Rangers hit one ball hard against Gilbert that went for a hit—a single off the bat of don’t-call-me-Nate Nathaniel Lowe. Marcus Semien’s ground ball single that broke up Gilbert’s perfect game came off the bat at 100 mph, but had an xBA of a mere .340, sneaking right past the glove of a diving José Caballero. Maybe if the rangier J.P. had been in; maybe if the shift hadn’t been banned; maybe, maybe, maybe. Jonah Heim had the only other hit off Gilbert and it was a parachute shot that came off the bat at 70 mph, and yet the Rangers were able to manufacture a pair of runs out of these collection of hits, and that’s all they would need.
But let’s go back to those six perfect innings Gilbert twirled. It was about the best I’ve ever seen Logan Gilbert pitch, even if with just 10 strikeouts he came one shy of his career strikeout record. He absolutely dominated the zone against a very strong Rangers offense, getting good hitters into bad counts and putting them away effectively. He struck out the side 1-2-3 in both the second and third innings, all on swinging strikeouts, and then got Semien ugly-chasing a slider to begin the fourth for a club-record-tying seven straight strikeouts, tying Luis Castillo (2022) and Mark Langston (1984). He constantly had the Rangers hitters expanding the zone, with late life on his fastball and sharp, late break on his slider, eliciting a ton of ugly whiffs and half-swings. The Rangers hitters used their timeouts frantically in two-strike counts, trying to slow down Gilbert’s breakneck pace; it didn’t matter.
Logan Gilbert, Annihilating the Side. ⛽️ pic.twitter.com/jzMUISRMwU— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 9, 2023
There were some rumblings when Gilbert cleared the sixth inning on just 12 pitches—“hey if you’re not watching the game you might want to tune in”, things of that nature—and I will say that as much as I know what a hard task a perfecto is, let alone a no-hitter, especially against a lineup like the Rangers, you know how there’s always seemingly that one stellar defensive play in no-hitters? The Mariners had that tonight, making me go all Fox Mulder on the possibility of a no-hitter, at least:
sick catch alert— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) May 9, 2023
Jarred Kelenic makes a leaping grab at the wall in foul territory in the left-field corner to get Logan Gilbert through the 5th inning. He's got a perfect game going, too... #jinx pic.twitter.com/dguysYzPfB
The bullpen also backed up Gilbert’s strong start, with Trevor Gott acting as fireman after Logan got into some trouble in the seventh and then holding the Rangers off the board in the next inning, and Gabe Speier also putting up a clean inning.
But once again, the Mariners offense went for “bare minimum Monday” and scored (checks notes) one run, on a first-inning home run from Ty France.
Ty France says goodbye to this baseball pic.twitter.com/ItEOvs9YwA— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) May 9, 2023
On the bright side, this is France’s first home run since Literally Opening Day, and part of an overall warming trend with his bat, so that’s a great sign.
On the not-so-bright-side, this was the sum total of the Mariners’ offense tonight, as they occasionally threatened Jon Gray with a bad time, but wound up allowing him to post a line very similar to Gilbert’s despite not nearly commanding the zone anywhere as well. To wit, here is Gray’s pitch locations:
That is not what we call a tight command of the zone. So. Many. Sliders. Off. The. Plate. And yet the Mariners hitters could not lay off, allowing a whiff percentage of 67% on the pitch. That’s bad! That’s so bad. It could be the best slider in the world (it is not) and major league hitters should not be whiffing on it two-thirds of the time. A huge culprit here though was the Mariners hitters getting themselves into terrible counts and having to swing defensively. And it wasn’t just Gray—Will Smith threw almost exclusively sliders in a shutdown ninth inning, eliciting five swings with four misses on the 13 he threw. Please get the slider machine out for batting practice tomorrow.
Postgame, Scott Servais was uncharacteristically blunt when he said the Mariners offense is occasionally “too easy to pitch to.” He’s not wrong—tonight the Rangers pitching staff, not exactly world-beaters, made an offense that was supposed to be one of the most threatening in the American League look utterly hapless. The bats have to wake up, before chances at another playoff appearance have go-go-gone.