Bergman strikes out career-high nine in 71/3 innings and Mariners allow only two hits and two walks against Oakland.
The guy everyone else was talking about didn’t know what to say.
“It’s hard to sum it up in a few words,” Mariners starter Christian Bergman said after the best start of his career.
For Bergman, perhaps, but not for his teammates or manager. Bergman gave the Mariners everything they could have hoped for, probably more than they could have hoped for, in a 4-0 win Wednesday against the A’s.
Bergman, a 29-year-old part-time starter, lasted a career-high 71/3 innings, had a career-high nine strikeouts, allowed only two hits and helped rejuvenate a pitching staff that has been decimated by injuries and overwork.
The praise for what Bergman did and what it meant was across the board.
“Huge shot in the arm for us,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve asked all of our guys to keep us in the game, and he did more than that tonight. He took over the game at a time when we really needed it.”
“Oh god,” reliever James Pazos said. “That was just awesome to watch. He really just stepped it up today. We needed it for sure, and he got it. It was great to watch.”
“That’s all I saw from him in Tacoma was this,” right fielder Ben Gamel said.
The last time a Mariners pitcher tossed seven scoreless innings? That would be James Paxton three weeks ago on April 26. Paxton hasn’t pitched since May 2 because of a forearm strain. Oddly enough, Bergman was promoted to the Mariners from Class AAA Tacoma on May 7 because of Paxton’s injury.
What Bergman gave the Mariners was something Servais harped on before the game. Without Felix Hernandez, Drew Smyly, Hisashi Iwakuma and, of course, Paxton, the Mariners haven’t gotten the consistent, long starts they could at least occasionally count on.
That’s caused problems in the bullpen, which Servais has called on more often than he would like. So it was a big deal for Servais that he needed only two pitchers on Wednesday. Bergman pitched into the eighth inning and Pazos recorded the final five outs, a step toward refreshing the bullpen.
“We want to keep those guys sharp,” Servais said. “Eventually we are going to get healthy, and when we do get healthy, we want to make sure we can put a really good streak together, and you’ve got to have those guys in the bullpen on top of their game.”
Bergman was on top of his game from the beginning. He didn’t allow a base runner until the third inning. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth, and allowed only one more after that.
In 16 previous starts, including one this year in which he allowed three runs in five innings, Bergman had recorded an out in the sixth inning only once. On Wednesday, he received a loud standing ovation from the 14,117 people at Safeco Field as he walked off the mound with one out in the eighth inning.
“I really appreciate that,” Bergman said.
The offensive support came early. Gamel, who turned 25 on Wednesday, tripled in the first inning and scored on a sacrifice fly from Nelson Cruz. Gamel’s hit was important and not just because it was his first career triple.
“Funny story,” Servais said. “Ben Gamel’s birthday is today, and he said to the guys earlier today, ‘I never get any hits on my birthday.’ After he got the first triple, they tell me that. Probably wouldn’t have played him if I’d known that. No, he’s been great for us and happy birthday for him.”
Said Gamel, “It’s been a couple of rough birthdays.”
The Mariners added three more runs in the fifth inning — two on a single from shortstop Jean Segura, who extended his hitting streak to 16 games, and one run on a Cruz ground out.
That was plenty for Bergman, who signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners in December.
Bergman was called up because of injuries and then thrust into the rotation because of injuries. The pitching staff has been decimated, and every day seems to bring a new roster move, trying to piece it together until the cavalry returns.
On Wednesday, however, Bergman did better than just holding the line. He had the best start of his career.