Arrow-right Camera

Color Scheme

Subscribe now
Seattle Mariners

Logan Gilbert’s sensational start sends Mariners to 5-0 win, sweep of Rangers

Seattle Mariners starter Logan Gilbert throws against the Texas Rangers on Sunday at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The anger and intensity were genuine. For eight innings, with his now infamous ego, Walter, in charge, he disdainfully dispatched of Rangers hitters with the mindset of “If you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.

The emotional response was real and elevated from the sold-out crowd basking in the Sunday sunshine. Did it still look a little awkward as he screamed and flexed and stomped off the mound? Absolutely, because it’s not something he can practice and prepare for unlike pitching.

But as the emotion poured out of Logan Gilbert following his strikeout of Leody Taveras to end the eighth inning and a crowd of more than 44,000 exalted in a performance of pitching brilliance, this much became clear about the Mariners, the American League West title should be the only expectation in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Fueled by Gilbert’s brilliant outing – eight shutout innings, two hits allowed, no walks and eight strikeouts – and an improving offense, the Mariners rolled to a 5-0 victory and a three-game series sweep over the defending World Series campion with the Texas Rangers.

“When it’s packed like that and they’re going crazy, pretty much all game, you’re trying to finish it on a good note,” Gilbert said of his outburst. “Basically everything you had pent up the whole game comes out.”

The Mariners improved to a season-high 12 games above ,500 and are now 43-31 on the season. More importantly, they added to their lead int he AL West, moving to 8.5 games above second-place Texas. It’s the largest division lead in MLB.

“That was an awesome series by our guys,” manager Scott Servais said. “That team won the World Series last year and we talked about it from the beginning of spring training, what it was going to take. You go through different things throughout the course of the season. But with us it’s always been about our pitching, and nobody better than Logan ‘Walter’ Gilbert out there today.”

The Mariners manipulated their starting rotation coming into the series, having Emerson Hancock start the final game of the previous series vs. Chicago. By doing that, the Mariners top 3 pitchers — Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Gilbert — would start in the critical series with an extra day of rest.

“People don’t understand when those decisions are made, that’s everybody organizationally involved ,” Servais said. “It’s from Jerry (Dipoto) and Justin Hollander in the front office, to pitching coaches, to myself, our HP (high performance) department, it’s everybody constantly communicating and trying to do what’s best for our players. I think our players appreciate it. I think you saw that the benefits of that here in this series.”

Gilbert wasn’t certain when he found out the shift in the rotation schedule, but it was early enough to adjust his detailed and almost obsessive routine and schedule in between starts. He liked that the Mariners lined it up for the top three starters to pitch in a series that had such importance in the standings.

“It almost felt like a playoff atmosphere in whatever it is mid-June, which is kind of weird to say,” Gilbert said. “But the ballpark was packed all three games, the crowd is going crazy. and that’s a really good team. We’re playing really well right now. It’s division rivals and I liked the way it lined up.”

The strategy proved correct with all three delivering quality starts of six-plus innings pitched and three runs or fewer allowed. They combined to pitch 20 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits with three walks and 22 strikeouts. But Gilbert’s was easily the best of the three. He had pinpoint location to go with overpowering stuff. He allowed on only one runner to reach second base and only two balls hit over 100 mph.

“He’s good. He’s tough,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “We saw it last year. We couldn’t score off him that game either, really all their starters, that’s the story of this series. We just couldn’t do too much against their starters. They have a really good staff and you got to find ways to score runs and we had a tough time.”

The Mariners held Corey Seager hitless over the weekend. In six games vs. Seattle this year, Seager is 0-for-19 with four walks, a hit by pitch and two strikeouts.

“He’s one of the best in baseball for sure,” Gilbert said. “I can’t say enough about what he’s done in his consistency. It’s a really tough at-bat. You really just had to go out there and make good pitches and mix it up and hope he’s not guessing what you’re throwing.”

The Mariners also provided Gilbert with more run support than he’s used to getting. He came into the game with the Mariners averaging 2.2 runs scored when Gilbert is pitching — the third lowest in MLB.

Seattle didn’t get a first-inning run off Rangers starter Dane Dunning, but he was forced to throw 33 pitches to get three outs. Josh Rojas 14-pitch at-bat helped balloon the pitch count early.

The Mariners broke through in the fourth inning as Mitch Haniger doubled into the left field corner with two outs and scored on Luke Raley’s double to right field.

Josh Rojas manufactured a run on his own in the fifth inning to help force Dunning of the game. He doubled off the wall in right-center and then later scored from second on a wild pitch from Dunning. The fastball went so far outside that catcher Andrew Knizner couldn’t get a glove on it. The ball ricocheted off the signage behind the plate and short toward the Mariners dugout.

Seeing that the ball was so far away, Rojas sprinted for home. Knizner tracked down the ball and flipped it to Dunning, who was covering home. But a head first slide from Rojas just beat the tag.

“Ro’s instincts, I’ve talked about it since day one, really since we acquired him, it just stands out,” Servais said. “Whether it’s in the batter’s box, defensively, certainly great baserunning with a heads up play there. The ball gets a crazy carom off the backstop. In this game, you need some luck once in a while. We got a break and Ro was on top of it and took advantage of it.”