The Mariners provided Gallardo with plenty of run support, including a grand slam from Taylor Motter and a five RBI from Nelson Cruz
Even for a veteran with more than 270 starts in the big leagues, sometimes a different voice and a different plan can lead to success.
For Yovani Gallardo that came on Sunday in the Mariners’ 11-1 shellacking of the A’s.
At the urging of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Gallardo changed up his game plan in how we wanted to attack hitters and it yielded his best start and first win of the season. The right-hander tossed 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts.
“I’ve been feeling great in the previous starts,” he said. “It was just a matter of putting everything together.”
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In past outings, Gallardo was overly reliant on two pitches — his four-seam fastball and slider — making him predictable in sequencing of his attack. In his previous outing, Gallardo gave up four runs over the first three innings, but worked the next three scoreless. The difference in results stemmed from the adjustment of changing speeds and eye level of hitters more often.
Stottlemyre urged him to follow that plan on Sunday with his whole array of pitches, which also includes a changeup, two-seam fastball and curveball, earlier in the game instead of waiting to use them out of necessity.
“Today from the first inning, we mixed in a lot of changeups and two seam fastballs to get ground balls for early outs,” Gallardo said. “We were using both sides of the plate with all of the pitches.”
Gallardo admittedly had also been too fine in his approach to attacking hitters, trying to nibble on the corners and executing a perfect pitch rather than making quality pitches that were also just as useful.
“It’s just throw the ball over the plate, command the ball over the plate and get the guys to swing the bats,” he said. “That’s the goal. From there, you can expand when you need to. I was able to get ground balls when I needed to and even strikeouts when I needed to. It just shows that we were attacking the zone.”
Per Brooks Baseball reading of MLB’s Pitch F/X tracking system, Gallardo threw 34 two-seam fastballs, 19 four-seam fastballs, 15 changeups, 23 sliders and 17 curveballs on Sunday. By comparison, in his first start of the season, Gallardo threw 31 four-seam fastballs, 13 two-seam fastballs, 24 sliders, 14 curveballs and just three changeups.
“It really paid dividends,” manager Scott Servais said. “You saw more changeups today, more back and forth instead of always going to the cutter/slider. It was certainly effective. I think it’s something he can hold onto and run with for a while.”
Gallardo came into the game having pitched horribly against the A’s in his career, posting an 0-5 record and 5.29 ERA in seven starts vs. Oakland. But given plenty of run support early, thanks to a third-inning grand slam from Taylor Motter, he ended that streak of struggles.
“It definitely always helps,” he said of the run support. “But there’s good hitters up and down the lineup of each and every team, and you can’t get away from your game plan. You’ve got to stick to your game plan and make pitches.”
*** Taylor Motter‘s grand slam off of A’s starter Andrew Triggs was the first of his career. After watching a slider go by on the first pitch, he jumped all over an inside fastball, hammering it over the wall in deep left-center.
“I’m going to be honest,” he said. “I don’t even know what pitch I hit out. I just put a good swing on it and hoped to get it.”
*** Nelson Cruz has a 12-game hitting streak against the A’s. On Sunday, he went 2-for-4 with base loaded walk, a three-run homer and a RBI double to drive in five runs on the day.
“I got jammed a little,” Cruz joked about his 400-foot blast to the upper deck in left center.
*** Playing in front of family and friends, who dubbed themselves “Fanigers” all weekend, rookie outfielder and Bay Area native Mitch Haniger continued his brilliant start to the season. Haniger went to the plate five times on Sunday and reached base four of them with a double, two singles, a walk, a sac bunt and scoring three runs on the day. In 20 games, Haniger is batting .321 (25-for-78) with a 1.020 on-base plus slugging percentage, 19 runs scored, seven doubles, a triple, four homers, 13 walks and 16 RBI.
*** Kyle Seager was out of the lineup for the second straight day with soreness in his right hip. It’s something that has nagged him for the past few games. With an off day on Monday, the Mariners felt it was a good time to rest him.
“I hurt it swinging, I guess,” he said. “I’ve been getting treatment on it the last couple of days. It’s not a big deal.”