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Marco Gonzales, J.P. Crawford keep Mariners’ playoff hopes burning

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 21, 2021

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

OAKLAND, Calif. — Back in mid-January, almost a month before they even reported to Arizona for 2021 spring training, Marco Gonzales and J.P. Crawford held steadfast to their beliefs even those around them and above tried to lower or temper their expectations for the upcoming season.

It was during the “Mariners’ Baseball Bash” an online media blitz of coverage amid the pandemic, both general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais used terms like improvement and individual development as their goals for the 2021 team.

Gonzales bristled at such suggestions while Crawford said flatly: “It’s time to win.”

On Tuesday, the two players that refused to accept anything less than winning, led the Mariners to a 5-2 victory over the Athletics, giving them another day’s worth of hope that they could somehow crash a postseason party without an invitation.

With an 82-69 record, the Mariners still remain three behind the Blue Jays, who hold the second wild-card spot.

Both Crawford’s and Gonzales’ continued surge in the second half of the season has been vital in allowing the Mariners to remain in a postseason race that seemed ready to leave them behind.

Crawford drove in a pair of runs, including a towering homer in the ninth inning, and made a ridiculous play in the field to help Gonzales win yet another game.

Gonzales pitched six innings, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts to improve to 9-5 and lower his ERA to 4.01.

Since the All-Star break, Gonzales has made 12 starts and has an 8-0 record with a 2.57 ERA. In 73 2/3 innings pitched, he’s struck out 49 batters and walked 16. Opponents have a just a .209/.258/.403 slash line against him.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for the leader of the pitching staff. He struggled in the first half of the season, dealing with a forearm injury that kept him out almost all of May, coming back without a rehab assignment and posting a 1-5 record in 11 starts with a 5.88 ERA. In 56 1/3 innings, he struck out 49 batters, walked 21 and allowed 15 homers. Opponents were posting a brutal .278/.344/.583 slash line against him. He was struggling to find the tempo in his delivery, leading to a lack of command for a pitcher that relies upon it.

He vowed to get back to normal, working to reestablish his routine and the conviction in his pitches. With fellow lefty Yusei Kikuchi cratering, Gonzales has been vital for the Mariners to stay in this wild-card race. Of the 12 starts, he’s never pitched fewer than five innings any of them with seven outings of six-plus innings.

His two runs came on a solo homer from Matt Olson with two outs in the first inning and a solo homer off the bat of Starling Marte to lead off the fourth inning.

But the Mariners provided Gonzales with solid run support in the game to make the two runs allowed stand up and leave him in line for a decision.

Jake Bauers’ heads-up decision to sprint for home when Olson slightly mishandled a pickoff play at first base tied the score at 1-1 in the second inning.

Seattle scored three runs off of A’s starter Paul Blackburn, a one-time Mariners prospect. Jarred Kelenic led off with a triple to right-center, Jake Fraley worked a walk and Dylan Moore smoked a triple off the wall in deep left-center to score both runners. Crawford would make it 4-1 when he singled through the shift to score Moore.

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