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Seattle Mariners

Ty France hits walk-off single, Mariners win regular-season finale

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SEATTLE – A little more than a year after he threw his first professional pitch in the Gulf Coast League as the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick out of Gonzaga for the St. Louis Cardinals, Marco Gonzales stepped on the mound of Dodger Stadium in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

With the Dodgers knocking around Adam Wainwright early and St. Louis trailing, the 22-year-old Gonzales pitched a scoreless bottom of the sixth inning, allowing one hit. So when his team rallied against Clayton Kershaw in the top of the seventh, scoring eight runs and eventually prevailing 10-9, Gonzales was credited with the win.

Not a bad postseason debut.

Gonzales made six appearances in the 2014 playoffs before the Cardinals lost to the Giants in the NL championship series.

It was the last time he got to experience the thrill of the postseason. Injuries in 2015 kept him off the Cardinals’ postseason roster. When he was traded to the Mariners midway through the 2017, he inherited a playoff drought that would dominate his thoughts and motivations over the next five seasons.

Fast forward to Wednesday’s final game of the 2022 regular season, with the Mariners having clinched a spot in the playoffs and thinking of the three-game series in Detroit, Gonzales jogged to the mound of T-Mobile Park to pitch, knowing that he wouldn’t be on the postseason roster for at least the wild-card series, and that, win or lose, pitching for as long as he could on Wednesday would be how would contribute this team’s postseason success.

Gonzales gave the Mariners seven complete innings of work, and the Mariners prevailed 5-4 over the Tigers on Ty France’s bases-loaded walk-off single down the first-base line.

The Mariners finished with 90-72 record for a second straight season. But this one certainly feels different with the team headed to Toronto after the game.

“I’ve had a lot of people that have believed in me along the way and pushed me to be better,” Gonzales said. “I’m not the biggest dude and I don’t throw the hardest. So I have to compete, I have to have those intangibles that set me aside. that’s what’s gotten me to this point. Hopefully, that’s what keeps me around. That’s why we’re here, it’s because we’ve set that culture that the team wins come first.”

It looked like his teammates would provide him with ample run support. Julio Rodriguez greeted Tigers starter Tyler Alexander with a mammoth leadoff homer to add another accolade to his stellar rookie season. Rodriguez crushed a cutter up in the zone, sending the ball into the upper deck in left field for his first homer since returning from the injured list and his 28th homer of the season, which set a Mariners rookie record, surpassing the 27 held by Mr. Mariner, Alvin Davis.

Two batters later, Mitch Haniger continued his recent surge, launching a solo homer into the Mariners’ bullpen for a 2-0 lead. With two hits on the day, Haniger has 13 hits in his past nine games, including four homers and 10 RBIs.

After working the first three innings scoreless, a two-out walk to Spencer Torkelson and a double to Eric Haase led to two runs in the fourth. Abraham Toro’s off-line throw to first after bare-handing Jeimer Candelario’s swinging bunt allowed both runners to score.

The Tigers pushed the lead to 3-2 in the fifth on Javy Baez’s two-out single to center.

The Mariners briefly retook the lead in the bottom of the sixth when Luis Torrens smacked a two-run homer to left off Alexander for a 4-3 lead. Gonzales couldn’t hold the lead, giving up a two-out single when Riley Greene looped a ball to center to score a run.

After a quick visit from pitching coach Pete Woodworth and his pitch count over 100, Gonzales pounced on Torkelson’s swinging bunt and fired to first to end the seventh.

He received a strong ovation from his teammates for his efforts.