Logan Gilbert is a quiet, unassuming “kid” that is often seen but not heard before games, carrying an assortment of implements including a double-handled medicine ball he fills with water, to help him prepare for each start. He was a 4.0 student in college and is engaged to be married this offseason. Even with his long curly locks, he’s seems more real estate salesman than right-handed power pitcher.
“Walter” is the admitted alter ego for Gilbert, who first appeared in his days at Stetson before he was a Mariners’ first-round pick in 2014 draft. The edgy, nasty personality he assumes on the days he pitches. There are no smiles. There are no free rides. The plate belongs to Walter and he’ll put a fastball under your chin to establish that territory. The scraggly goatee that has adorned Gilbert’s normally hairless face and is filling is all Walter.
On Tuesday night, A.J. Pollock, the White Sox and any unaware fans in attendance and watching, got a memorable introduction to Gilbert and his dual personalities in the Mariners’ 3-0 win over the White Sox.
With the win, the Mariners (77-59) remained tied with the Rays (76-58) for the first American League wild-card spots while the Blue Jays (75-60) sit 1.5 games back.
“Pitching, pitching, pitching that is the 2022 Mariners at its finest,” manager Scott Servais said.
Making his 28th start of the season and getting the bare minimum of run support possible while he was in the game, Gilbert tossed six shutout innings, allowing five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts to improve to 12-5. He threw 101 pitches, 62 were strikes, including 18 swings and misses.
“He goes six shutout innings and strikes out nine guys and it wasn’t Logan at his best,” Servais said. “It’s crazy to say that. His stuff was really good but, the command, I just thought his timing was a little off tonight. We saw more non-competitive pitches than we see from Logan on any normal night and he knew it. It was a battle every inning to get through it.”
But it was the 101st pitch and 18th whiff that might be the most memorable of the outing. Going into what was likely his final inning due to an escalating pitch count, Gilbert found trouble in the sixth inning. He allowed a two-out laser of a double to Jose Abreu and another hard line drive single to center to Eloy Jimenez to put runners on the corners.
It drew a mound visit from pitching coach Pete Woodworth where Gilbert stared at him or through him as if to say, “Why are you here?”
After the visit, Gilbert struck out Gavin Sheets on four fastballs, none of them less than 97 mph. It brought to the plate Pollock, a veteran hitter who had homered on Monday. Gilbert used a first-pitch fastball to get ahead, tossed two sliders one for a ball and one for a check swing strike to push the count to 1-2.
“It’s kind of a chess match where they see what I’m doing,” Gilbert said. “He knows I’m trying to get to the fastball. And I think that’s why the slider worked before that for the second strike. Just throwing something that looks like a fastball, and then [I] went a little lower to try to get [him to] chase so he’s not trying to time me up. Then once I felt like we had him off it a little bit I knew I wanted to get back to my fastball.”
With a boisterous crowd of 17,958 standing, Gilbert reared back and fired a 99 mph fastball at the top of the strike zone that Pollock waved at feebly for strike three.
“That’s pretty cool,” he said of it being his hardest pitch of the night. “I just let it go. In a big moment like that, the crowd is going crazy, it’s pretty easy to get yourself amped up and just throw it as hard as you can. When you get to that moment at the end of the game, where you can just let it go and let it eat. It’s pretty cool.”
As the crowd roared, all of “Walter” came out of Gilbert in a primal and animated yell, he screamed “Let’s go! Let’s go!” before stalking off the mound and heading to the dugout to his approving teammates.
“It’s such a big moment and I’m trying to make a big pitch,” Gilbert said. “When I did, it just kind of comes out. I don’t even know what happened. I kind of just blacked out.”
And his teammates reaction?
“I think they were probably just shocked,” he said. “I’m pretty laid back and quiet most of the time. So when something like that happens, they’re fired up too and they love it. Some people are screaming, some people are just laughing because they don’t expect me to do that. But sometimes it just comes out.”
Most of his teammates have met Walter. They know to stay away.
“I don’t if anyone is ever gonna figure him out,” said catcher Cal Raleigh, who has been Gilbert’s longtime roommate. “He’s an interesting cat, but he’s great. He comes to the field every day wanting to get better, focused and it’s a guy you want out there come October.”
Servais loves Logan, but has grown to appreciate Walter.
“He’s about as kindhearted, as nice of a young man you’re gonna find,” Servais said. “He treats everybody with all kinds of respect. But when it is his day to pitch and he steps out of the dugout to take the mound, it is on. And I love that about him.”
After scoreless frames from Matt Brash and Andres Munoz in relief, Raleigh provided the big hit that had been missing all night.
Following Sam Haggerty’s walk to start the eighth inning, Raleigh blasted a hanging breaking ball from Reynaldo Lopez into the right-field stands for his 23rd homer of the season and a 3-0 lead.
Paul Sewald worked scoreless ninth inning for his 18th save of the season.
Chicago’s Johnny Cueto took the loss despite allowing just one run in six-plus innings of work.
The Mariners grabbed that 1-0 lead, or perhaps more correctly, the White Sox gave them a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning.
Ty France led off with a double to right field, accelerating to second when the ball bounced off the padding in foul territory. Mitch Haniger followed with a deep fly ball to right field. France tagged up and took off for third base. Right fielder Sheets was able to make a strong throw after the catch, but it was wide of the base and third baseman Yoan Moncada made a disinterested attempt to glove it. The ball got by him and past Cueto, who was backing up on the play.
The ball bounced off a TV camera in the camera well behind third base, which is out of play. France was awarded home on the throwing error.