SEATTLE – On a day when two of the team’s best relievers were put on the injured list, the Mariners offense and left-handed starter Marco Gonzales made sure Seattle’s beleaguered bullpen got a night of minimal use and zero leverage.
Given a healthy amount of run support, Gonzales delivered his longest and one of his most effective outings since April 2 to give the Mariners a 6-3 win over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night.
“Much better result tonight,” manager Scott Servais said. “Great job by Marco Gonzales tonight. It was a dominant game. He had them off balance and had a really good cutter tonight. He was really aggressive all night long. To get him through eight innings was just what the doctor ordered.”
Gonzales continued his mastery of Oakland this season, pitching eight innings and allowing two early runs on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts to improve to 10-7 on the season. Three of those wins have come against Oakland. He’s thrown 21 innings against the A’s, allowing six earned runs in 21 innings pitched with four walks and 13 strikeouts.
“It’s just the way they’ve kind of approached me and I’ve approached them,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of baseball left. I don’t want to speak too soon. I have to face these guys when I come back.”
Meanwhile, the Mariners snapped a three-game losing streak and will look to close out a series win Sunday before the All-Star break.
Gonzales’ 2019 season hasn’t been as expected. Yes, he’s the first Seattle pitcher to reach double figures in wins, but he also went 0 for May, losing five starts and taking a no-decision in the other. It was part of a stretch of seven starts where he took six losses and a no-decision with the Mariners losing every one of his games.
“It’s a learning experience,” he said. “I want to finish the first half strong and prove to myself that I could end on a good note before the break. The ups and downs, it’s just learning what my stuff is like this year and learning to pitch with what I’ve got.”
But now, he’s won five of his last six outings and seems to resemble the pitcher the Mariners have planned part of their future around.
“I think it was a matter of learning to simplify things at the right time,” he said. “Mechanically and mentality-wise, I was just trying too hard and getting a little complicated. That switch came was just simplifying. If anything it just goes to show, work smarter not harder.”
After being held scoreless for the first three innings and trailing 2-0, the Mariners figured out A’s starter Chris Bassitt.
Domingo Santana led off the fourth inning with his second hit off Bassitt. Daniel Vogelbach followed with his 21st home run of the season. But this two-run shot was anything but typical. While Vogelbach has been known to hit rocket fly balls, including one into the third deck of T-Mobile Park’s right field, this was a different kind of fly ball. It seemed to go up immediately off the bat. If the roof had been closed, it seemed likely to have hit one of the rafters. And the ball kept carrying and carrying seemingly through the skiff of clouds lingering on the otherwise pleasant summer evening and landing in the seats.
“I’ve never seen a home run that high,” Gonzales said.
MLB Statcast said the “Vogelbomb,” as the cool kids call them, measured 361 feet in distance, which is a mis-hit for the young slugger. But it was the other numbers that verified its absurdity. Statcast had it measuring 158 feet in the air at its apex with a launch angle of 43 degrees. For comparison, most homers are typically in the 25-30 degree range.
“I don’t normally don’t hit high homers,” Vogelbach said. “I knew I hit it good, but I didn’t know if it would go out because of how high I hit it. It felt good off the bat.”
Using the website Baseball Savant that compiles statcast data, only 16 players have hit homers over the fence with launch angles with 43 degrees or higher.
In Mariners history, only two players Nelson Cruz (45 degrees) and Leonys Martin (44 degrees) have hit homers with launch angles of 43 degrees or higher.
“I said ‘Vogey, you almost hit it too high,” Servais recounted. “He said, ‘If that one doesn’t leave, I quit.’ Vogey knows he just needs to get the ball in the air and to the good part of the bat.”
It was the first of two Mariners homers in the inning.
After Omar Narvaez’s bloop single to right, Kyle Seager stepped up and swatted a two-run homer to right to snap a 0-for-21 stretch at the plate. Seager’s normal homer had a 28-degree launch angle and traveled 367 feet with an apex of 72 feet.
“It was definitely better,” Seager said. “But it was kind of hard to be worse I guess. It’s a good way to go from there.”
Seattle tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning. Narvaez worked a bases-loaded walk off reliever Wei-Chi Wang, and Seager scored another run with a sac fly that made it 6-2.
Given a lead, Gonzales got stronger as the game wore on. He didn’t allow a run from the fourth through eighth inning, surrendering just two hits.
Gonzales had to scramble in his first inning of work. After recording a quick out, he gave up singles to Matt Chapman and Matt Olson and then walked Khris Davis to load the bases. But Gonzales scrambled out of the situation with minimal damage. He gave up a sacrifice fly to Ramon Laureano and then struck out Chad Pinder to end the inning. Gonzales had escaped a fiasco.
The A’s pushed the lead to 2-0 with two outs in the third when Olson hit a fly ball that carried over the wall in center field for a solo homer.
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