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Seattle Mariners

Marco Gonzales shows he’s still major factor in changing rotation by helping Mariners take down Blue Jays

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (7) pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.  (Associated Press)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

TORONTO – Back before Logan Gilbert had thrown a professional pitch, while George Kirby was still firing fastballs at Elon University and Robbie Ray was still trying to sort out his mechanics and harness his stuff for other teams to be the pitcher worthy of a $115 million contract, Marco Gonzales stepped forward to lead the Mariners’ pitching staff.

As the new regime transitioned, albeit awkwardly at times, away from Felix Hernandez, Gonzales, who was acquired in a 2017 midseason trade, became the de facto ace of the staff despite not possessing the typical physical gifts of a starter.

With a nasty competitive streak that belied his boy-next-door appearance and professor’s understanding of how to pitch with his stuff and repertoire, he did everything the Mariners could’ve asked for and more. He performed. He led by example. And he demanded accountability.

Still, with the signing of Ray, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, the emergence of Gilbert as a dominant starter and the debut of Kirby, one of baseball’s top pitching prospects, Gonzales’ accomplishments and contributions have been pushed aside like old toys on Christmas for the shiny new gifts in the rotation.

But there’s a reason why Legos are still popular and people hang on to them forever.

For the second time on this road trip, Gonzales showed why what he’s done and what he’s still capable of doing shouldn’t be overlooked or undervalued despite an uneven start to the season.

The Mariners’ stalwart lefty outdueled Toronto ace Kevin Gausman, making sure they avoided a sweep by the Blue Jays with a 5-1 victory.

Facing a strong Blue Jays lineup, loaded with dangerous right-handed hitters, Gonzales tossed six innings, allowing one run on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts to improve to 2-4 on the season.

Gausman, who came into the game with a 3-2 record and a 2.40 ERA, pitched just five innings – tying his shortest appearance of the season – allowing two runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts. Toronto was 5-2 in his previous seven starts.

Gonzales delivered a similar outing to start the road trip. Matched up against the Mets’ perennial Cy Young Award candidate Max Scherzer at CitiField, Gonzales pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts, but took a no decision, in Seattle’s 2-1 win.

During his six innings of work, Seattle provided two runs of support despite putting constant pressure with an aggressive approach against the strike-throwing Gausman.

Seattle loaded the bases with no outs on singles from Adam Frazier, Ty France and J.P. Crawford to start the game. Jesse Winker gave Seattle a 1-0 lead with a sac fly that scored Frazier. The inning ended when Julio Rodriguez hard ground ball (106 mph exit velocity) to third was turned into an inning-ended double play by Matt Chapman on a nifty snag of a tough hop.

Toronto tied the game in the third. After allowing back-to-back singles to start the inning, Gonzales later issued back-to-back walks to Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. to force in a run.

Seattle put him in line for a win when Cal Raleigh hit a first-pitch fastball from Gausman for an opposite-field solo homer to left-center for a 2-1 lead. It was the first homer that Gausman had allowed this season. He had faced 192 hitters this season without allowing a homer.

The Mariners broke the game open when Gausman left the game. France crushed a two-run homer off Trevor Richards in the seventh and Abraham Toro, a native of Canada, added a solo homer in the ninth, much to the delight of his family in the stands.