It started ominously Sunday afternoon for Mariners rookie starting pitcher Logan Gilbert.
But it ended with his first big-league victory.
“It’s crazy and it’s awesome,” Gilbert said. “It’s a moment I’ve dreamed of for sure. My family is here … so it’s awesome to have them here and see the first win. It’s really special.”
The right-hander allowed a home run to Justin Upton on his first pitch, but didn’t allow another run while throwing 105 pitches in five innings, leading the Mariners to a 9-5 victory at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
Seattle’s victory stopped a two-game losing streak and gave the Mariners a split of the four-game series.
“Nice ballgame and nice to split the series,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “You feel like you should probably win all four, but that’s baseball.”
Gilbert showed great resiliency after his first fastball was launched 403 feet into the left-field seats by Upton.
It got better from there, but it wasn’t easy. Gilbert stranded seven base runners, keeping the Angels from getting the big hit that could have changed the game.
Gilbert allowed two hits, four walks and hit a batter. He struck out seven and got 21 swings-and-misses, mostly with his slider.
The Mariners scored in the top of the first after J.P. Crawford led off the inning with an eight-pitch walk. He eventually scored on a Kyle Seager sacrifice fly.
Seattle retook the lead at 3-1 in the third inning when Donovan Walton led off with a home run off the right-field foul pole. Later in the inning, Seager hit a one-out, run-scoring single.
Meanwhile, Gilbert was making some great escapes. After Upton’s homer in the first, he allowed two walks but wiggled out of trouble.
Gilbert stranded three base runners in the second inning, but as the first inning, it took a lot of work and pitches, throwing 43 in the first two innings.
After a much-needed 1-2-3 inning in the third, Gilbert worked out of another jam in the fourth after allowing a two-out double and walk. That brought up Angels slugger Shohei Ohtani, who got ahead 3-0 in the count. But Gilbert came back to strike Ohtani out swinging on a slider.
“It’s one of those situations where you just have to make a pitch, and fortunately it worked out,” Gilbert said, noting that his slider got better as the game progressed.
With Gilbert’s pitch count nearing 100, the question was would he make it through five innings.
The answer was yes after he retired the Angels in order in the fifth, finishing off his day with strikeouts of Jared Walsh and Juan Lagares.
“He really made some big pitches against some big-time hitters,” Servais said of Gilbert. “I thought his competitiveness late in his outing was outstanding.”
The Mariners’ bullpen, which gave up eight runs in four innings Saturday night in a 12-5 defeat, struggled to close the game in the final two innings.
JT Chargois and Paul Sewald retired the Angels in order in the sixth and seventh innings, but Rafeal Montero struggled in the eighth. He entered the game with a 4-1 lead — the Mariners scored in the seventh on a run-scoring double by Crawford — but allowed a run and had runners on first and third before getting the final out.
It seemed like that would be the Angels’ last real chance because the Mariners added five runs in the eighth, with only one hit leaving the infield, that being Jake Fraley’s leadoff single as a pinch-hitter (he drove in a run later in the inning with a bases-loaded walk).
But Keynan Middleton, tasked with finishing off the Angels, allowed two doubles, a single and a walk without getting an out. With the score 9-4 and runners on second and third, Servais pulled Middleton and brought in Drew Steckenrider.
Steckenrider got three consecutive outs and finally — 3 hours and 57 minutes after the game started — Gilbert had his first victory.
It also was a big day for Crawford, who is from Southern California. Crawford said his grandfather, who Crawford said is either 87 or 88, was watching him in person for the first time.
Crawford responded with two doubles, two runs scored and two runs batted in.
“It was kind of touchy for me and really emotional at the beginning of that game,” he said. “It was really cool.”