The prospect vs. the proven.
With the Mariners looking to erase the disappointment from giving away a victory on Saturday night and also trying to salvage a last victory on what has been a brutal road trip, the starting pitching matchup of talented but inexperienced rookie Logan Gilbert vs. reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber didn’t seem like an equation that would result in success.
But on Sunday, the prospect proved to be better while the Mariners’ surprising success against one of the best pitchers in baseball continued.
Gilbert delivered a brilliant outing, perhaps his best of his rookie campaign, and his teammates provided unexpected run support, scoring five runs off Bieber, to end the 12-game road trip with a 6-2 victory.
“Obviously coming off a tough loss yesterday to go out there and shut a team down like (Gilbert) did was exactly what we needed,” manager Scott Servais said. “Our offense stood up today. It was really good against a really good pitcher.”
Perhaps the only downer on the day was seeing Mitch Haniger being helped off the field after fouling a 92 mph fastball from Bieber into Haniger’s left knee in the first inning. The Mariners later announced Haniger had suffered a left-knee contusion.
Gilbert pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts to pick up his second straight win. Of his 96 pitches, 60 were strikes, including 19 swings and misses.
“A heck of a job by Logan Gilbert again,” Servais said. “We are seeing a really interesting, talented young starting pitcher grow up before our eyes. It’s really impressive what he did today. I love how he attacked the strike zone. He had a really good changeup. He’s throwing more and more of them like I predicted he would and today was a great day for it.”
The Indians saw a very different version of Gilbert, who made his MLB debut against them May 13 at T-Mobile Park. He allowed four runs on five hits, including two homers, in four innings pitched.
He held Cleveland scoreless over the first five innings. But a leadoff walk to Bradley Zimmer, his first and only walk issued in the game, would come around to score on a single from Amed Rosario.
“I felt like it was a lot better,” Gilbert said. “I feel like I’ve cleaned some stuff up since then and have really been able to use other pitches and rely on other pitches versus just trying to show them stuff. I just feel more well-rounded as a pitcher in general, just being able to go to different pitches.”
J.P. Crawford opened the game with a single off Bieber and with two outs in the sixth inning he singled again for the Mariners’ 10th hit off Bieber, who finally was pulled from the game with a 107 pitches thrown. His final line: 5 2/3 innings pitched, five runs allowed on 10 hits, including two long home runs, with two walks and eight strikeouts.
If you combine those numbers with his previous outing against the Mariners on May 16, where he took the loss, pitching just 4 2/3 innings and giving up three runs on five hits with four walks and seven strikeouts at T-Mobile Park, Bieber has allowed eight runs on 15 hits in 11 1/3 innings pitched with six walks and 15 strikeouts.
In his other 12 starts, Bieber has a 7-2 record with a 2.80 ERA while averaging 6 2/3 innings per start and limiting opponents to a .217 batting average and striking 9.6 batters per game.
Before the game, Servais talked about the team’s past success against Bieber, using the word “disciplined” in their approach at the plate, working to not chase Bieber’s curveball that is thrown off the plate for swings and misses.
While not perfect in every at-bat, Seattle displayed it again.
“I thought we did a nice job,” Servais said. “Bieber wasn’t typically as sharp as he normally is, but our guys were ready to hit. You’re not going to get a ton of mistakes from him. We were on him early. You get a pitch to hit in the middle of play, you’ve got to put it in play. I thought we did a good job of that today.”
With two outs in the second inning, Jose Godoy and Crawford came up with RBI singles for a 2-0 lead.
Kyle Seager made it 3-0 in the third inning, crushing a hanging curveball from Bieber into the right-field seats for his 13th homer of the season. Per Statcast, Seager’s blast traveled 427 feet. In a 3-for-31 slump, Seager had three hits on the day.
“Well, I hit it for once that was a positive,” Seager joked about his slump and the strikeout in his first at-bat against Bieber. “I’ve swung and missed at enough of them. So that was definitely a positive. It was up. I got a good pitch to hit. I was able put a good swing on it.”
The Mariners got another long ball on the same pitch and in almost the same place. With Godoy on base, Jake Fraley, who replaced Haniger in the game, crushed a curveball into the right-field stands for a two-run dinger. It was his fourth homer of the season.
The Mariners had five singles and two homers off Bieber’s curveball in the game. Opponents were hitting just .212 with a .276 slugging percentage off that pitch coming into the game.
Things got a little interesting in the ninth when reliever Kendall Graveman, pitching on back-to-back days, found all sorts of trouble with two outs, giving up a run and allowing the tying run to get into the on-deck circle. But he got a line out to left off the bat of Josh Naylor to end the game.
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