For whatever reason, his teammates love to make fun of Logan Gilbert, whether it be dunking on his mustache, suggesting him as a lookalike (“Doggelganger”) for an Afghan Hound during Bark in the Park Nights, or various other japes—if a joke needs a butt, more often than not it’s Logan goodnaturedly playing the part. Part of it is definitely his brotherly relationship with Cal Raleigh, who leads the gentle teasing. Maybe it’s just that at 6’6” Gilbert is especially susceptible to catching some strays. But it’s also a way to keep the notoriously cerebral, serious Gilbert light—on every day, of course, except his start day, when amiable Logan disappears and Walter, Logan’s snarling alter ego, makes his presence known.
Walter is especially noticeable when the Mariners have been going through a losing skid and Gilbert looks to play stopper, as he did today. Logan’s last start against the Mets was a true bummer of an outing, where the team offered him nothing but one paltry run of support in exchange for 6.2 innings of one-run, nine-strikeout, no-walk ball. Gilbert wasn’t as sharp today per the box score, giving up three runs over just 5.1 innings with two walks, but those three runs were spread evenly across his outing, and more the result of bad sequencing luck than true ineffectiveness by Gilbert. In the first, a bad-luck triple in the dastardly right field corner of Great American Smallpark gave the Reds an early 1-0 lead (which, spoiler alert, would also be their last lead of the day); a back-to-back double and single led to another run in the fifth; and human cheat code Elly De La Cruz manufactured his own run in the sixth, walking, stealing second, and scoring on a single. However, Gilbert maneuvered himself into and out of trouble, never allowing the runs to pile up in a big inning, and contended with an aggressive Reds lineup in a hitter-friendly park to rack up nine strikeouts and several quick innings.
Gilbert was pitching carefully to start the game, leaning heavily on his splitter to put down the Reds as he protected a paper-thin lead given to the Mariners in the second inning thanks to Ty France working an impressive 10-pitch walk followed by Mike Ford clubbing a baseball way out to right field, presumably to reunite it with the factory that shares his name. No Smallpark help necessary:
But Gilbert was really able to let the Walter out in the bottom of the fourth, as the Mariners staked him to a 7-1 lead. Ty France opened the scoring with an RBI double and gets extra-credit points from me for reminding the rest of the offense it’s ok to score on things other than home runs. But J.P. Crawford does not care about extra credit:
Nor does Cal Raleigh:
That lead allowed Gilbert to revert to challenging Reds hitters on the plate with his beloved fastball. Logan Gilbert can have a little throwing his favorite pitch, as a treat. The Reds did wind up tagging Gilbert’s fastball a little in the fifth, scoring another run, and in the sixth he reverted to the more secondary-heavy mix again, but seemed to have maybe lost some of his sharpness of command. Matt Brash came in with two on and just one out and immediately allowed a single to load the bases, but was able to Brashdini his way out of trouble, striking out Will Benson and getting Jake Fraley to ground out. About time Brash had some good batted-ball luck.
The Mariners answered that run back in the top of the seventh, getting after reliever Daniel Duarte for another run again on a Ty France they-don’t-all-have-to-be-homers RBI single. With the score 8-3, Gabe Speier and Justin Topa—thankfully recovered from his brief bout of dingeritis—held the door. Andrés Muñoz allowed a solo home run to Will Benson, a real pest today, to make it 8-4 in the ninth, but stopped the bleeding there to help the Mariners salvage a win in this series and head off to Tampa Bay on a positive note after a disappointing start to the road trip.
Logan Gilbert has talked in the past about the challenge of feeling like one belongs at the MLB level—baseball players, they get imposter syndrome just like us! Maybe that’s the real gift of Walter, a persona he can pick up and put down at will, a mask he can use, ritualistically, to summon his hottest fastballs and nastiest splitters. There’s no question that Walter belongs. But there’s also no question that Logan belongs, leaning into the jokes doled out by affectionate teammates, establishing his place in this rotation as the one who knocks ‘em down when the Mariners need him the most. It’s a role symbolic of this team as a whole, looking to threaten the established bullies of the AL West, suffering some bouts of self-doubt on the way but ultimately coming out swinging. In that way, we are all Walter.