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Seattle Mariners

Julio Rodriguez hits first homer, Mariners move into first with win over Rangers

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

ARLINGTON, Texas – “Uh, hey, um, so, Julio, you know you can’t take that trident with you into the outfield, right? Just put it down. Yes, it feels like Cal Raleigh has been hogging it lately, but you’ll get to hold it again.”

But this joyful reunion between a young power-hitting superstar and his home run celebration prop came after a longer than expected or desired time apart.

Playing in his 23rd game and in his 93rd plate appearance of the season, Julio Rodriguez finally hit his first home run. And it wasn’t a wall-scraper, it was a titanic two-run blast on a badly misplaced 1-0 sinker from Rangers starter Dane Dunning into the upper deck of Globe Life Field.

It led to an overly excited celebration with the trident and then some excessive hugging of the 6-foot gold-painted metal weapon like it was a long-lost puppy finally found and returned home.

“I loved it,” Rodriguez said. “It was a long time since I’ve seen my old friend.”

While Rodriguez hit his first homer of the season, he wasn’t the first Mariners player to homer on Tuesday evening. Nope, Raleigh smashed his fourth homer in five games – a towering two-run blast in the first inning on a 0-2 pitch from Dunning.

“I’ve got some work to do to catch up,” Rodriguez said.

The two homers and four runs of support were all that Logan Gilbert and the Mariners trio of leverage relievers would need as they shut out the defending World Series champions in a 4-0 victory.

The win snapped an eight-game losing streak for the Mariners at Globe Life dating to the 2022 season.

“It’s a good way to start the series,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “Obviously, we needed to flip the script here in this ballpark. Last year, they had our number here. I give our guys a ton of credit. They came in today very focused and rode the coattails of Logan Gilbert again.”

Seattle improved to 12-11 on the season and took over the lead in the AL West from the Rangers, who fell to 12-12. The Mariners have won eight of their past 11 games.

“They’re a great team, but at the same time we’re a great team, too,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like we can go toe-to-toe with anybody. It just shows how good of a team we have. We are gonna continue to keep building on this momentum and just continue to play our ball.”

Gilbert did what he’s been doing all season, giving his team an optimal chance to win when he takes the mound.

Facing a lineup filled with dangerous hitters, including several from the left side of the plate, Gilbert delivered another solid outing in a season filled with them, tossing 6⅔ scoreless innings, allowing only two hits with an uncharacteristic four walks and six strikeouts.

“Really love where he’s at,” Servais said. “Logan is off to a great start. And I just thought his demeanor tonight right from the get go was like, ‘Hey, I want to get after these guys,’ and he really took it to them. He was on the attack as all of our guys were tonight, which was great to see.”

Gilbert improved to 2-0 with a 1.87 ERA in five starts and 33⅔ innings pitched this season. Opposing hitters have a .161/.214/.297 slash line against him this season with 35 strikeouts and eight walks. It was Seattle’s 13th quality start of six-plus innings pitched and three runs or fewer allowed this season – most in the American League.

Over the last 11 games, Mariners starting pitchers have delivered 10 of those quality starts while allowing a combined 10 runs in 69⅓ innings pitched for a 1.30 ERA. They’ve struck out 70 batters and walked just 13.

“With guys like Cal and Julio getting hot, it helps out a lot,” Gilbert said. “It allows me some freedom to fill up the strike zone.”

Gilbert has a 31-0 record in starts where his teammates score at least three runs while he’s in the game.

The addition of the cutter (cut fastball) helped, providing Gilbert a weapon to help combat all the left-handed and switch hitters that the Rangers put in the lineup.

“I don’t think we used it in spring training much against them,” Gilbert said. “So it was kind of there today when we needed it and we went to it a lot. I think it helped out. It gave a different look. It’s something moving into the lefties. A lot of my stuff’s north-south. I felt like it was working. We just kept going to it.”

Gilbert threw the cutter 22 times to Rangers hitters. It kept them off-balance helped set up his slider and fastball.

After working around two first-inning walks, Gilbert didn’t run into any serious trouble until the seventh. He allowed a leadoff double to Nathaniel Lowe on a tough sinking liner that Rodriguez couldn’t quite corral with a sliding attempt. After retiring the next two batters, he walked Jonah Heim on his 100th pitch of the game.

“It’s like two or three starts in a row now,” Gilbert said of ending his outing with a walk. “I’m like one pitch away from finishing it off. I just wanted to execute one more pitch and just finish it off.”

Servais brought in Ryne Stanek, who got Leody Taveras to ground out to J.P. Crawford to end the inning.

Gabe Speier looked dominant, striking out two batters in the eighth. Andres Munoz worked a scoreless ninth to maintain the shutout.