In the hours before he would jog to the mound of T-Mobile Park to face the Oakland A’s, a video of Logan Gilbert was being shown around the clubhouse by a certain catcher and former roommate.
“You’ve got to see this,” Cal Raleigh said.
It was a video of Gilbert driving to the park taken by his wife, Aviles, that illustrated his dichotomy of personalities perfectly. Wearing dark sunglasses on the brilliantly sunny afternoon, Gilbert, who is now trying to rock a mustache, had the window rolled down, blowing his long hair back while nodding along to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” blasting on the stereo.
It cut a perfect image of his angry, pitching alter-ego “Walter,” who will run a fastball under your chin because he can and not be afraid to do it again, preparing for a game.
But that intense facade was interrupted by the wiggling rear end of the tiny French bulldog, Winnie, wearing a bright pink harness while standing on his lap and feeling the air on her face.
“That is tonight’s starting pitcher,” Raleigh said with a chuckle.
Well, on a Bark in the Park night, the starting pitcher delivered one of his best outings of the season while treating the A’s to the full “Walter” experience.
After allowing a two-run homer in the first inning, Gilbert’s pitching alter-ego went to another level. He allowed just one base runner over the rest of his outing while his teammates provided just enough offense, powered by Ty France’s two homers, to complete a four-game sweep of the A’s with a 3-2 victory Thursday.
“Yeah, I didn’t know she was filming me,” he said.
It does speak to the duality of Gilbert, who is engaging, sardonic and thoughtful when he isn’t on the mound. But when he gets into game mode, he’s ruthless and aggressive.
“He was really good,” France said. “He comes out with that intent every time he steps on the mound.”
Gilbert pitched eight innings, allowing two runs on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He was remarkably efficient, throwing just 77 pitches, with 59 strikes.
“Logan is rolling right now,” manager Scott Servais said. “He’s got all four pitches working. He’s got a ton of confidence. It’s fun to watch.”
The only runs allowed came in the first inning. He allowed a one-out double to Ryan Noda on a first-pitch fastball away. After striking out Brent Rooker looking, Gilbert hung an 0-1 curveball that Seth Brown, one of the few established players on the A’s, sent it into the right field seats.
“It was probably too high up,” he said. “Even the strikeout to Rooker before that was a little bit higher. After that first inning, I really started to get the ball down, especially those breaking balls. Definitely one I wanted back, but it happens.”
Gilbert didn’t get angry, he got better. Using a four-pitch mix, he retired 22 of the next 23 hitters he faced. The only baserunner was came on a Noda single with two outs in the sixth.
“I feel better about that this year,” Gilbert said of flushing the homer. “This year I feel comfortable with who I am as a person, as a pitcher, and feel like things don’t shake me as much.”
France, who loves to antagonize Gilbert, made sure he had some run support. After getting hit on the hand by a 97-mph fastball in Tuesday’s game and sitting out Wednesday’s game as a precaution, he was back in the starting lineup.
There was some hand-wringing on social media by a vocal segment of the fan base, griping that France was back in the lineup so soon after what appeared to be a serious injury in the moment. They brought up past wrist injuries that led to slumps, despite France and the Mariners saying multiple times that the wrist wasn’t injured.
France quieted the complaints on the first pitch of his first plate appearance, launching a breaking ball from A’s starter J.P. Sears into the upper deck of Edgar’s Cantina for a solo homer.
“I think Ty’s hand is OK,” Servais said. “I know there was some concern maybe we shouldn’t play him today.”
And if there were still any residual doubts about France’s health, he erased them in the sixth inning against the pitcher that hit him in the hand on Tuesday.
Right-hander Trevor May, a Kelso High standout and lifelong Mariners fan, left a fastball on the inner half of the plate that France turned on and sent a homer almost to the same spot as his blast in the first inning.
“My hand is OK,” France said as he walked into the interview room.
Is it really OK?
“It’s really OK,” he said.
France wore a plastic guard over his hand to protect it.
“I might as well,” he said, “that was the first time I’ve ever been hit in my hand like that. But they make the pads so I might as well wear one. It was a little uncomfortable, but I’m still getting used to it. Getting ready and remembering to put it on is the hard part right now.”
The Mariners finally put Gilbert in line for the win in the eighth inning. When A’s shortstop Nick Allen purposely dropped a France pop-up with Jose Caballero on first to switch baserunners at first base, it looked like it might hurt the Mariners. Julio Rodriguez doubled to right-center on the first pitch from reliever Garrett Acton and France couldn’t score from first.
“Really smart play,” Servais said. “When Julio hits the double in the gap on the next pitch, is it a play Cabby would have scored on? He would have had a chance to score. Ty did not have a chance to score. But a really smart play.”
The A’s immediately signaled for Jarred Kelenic to be intentionally walked.
It brought Eugenio Suarez to the plate. There was a slight problem. Suarez had went to the bathroom during the pitching change for Acton. Because Rodriguez had swung at the first pitch and Kelenic was intentionally walked, he barely had time to get on his batting gloves let alone see the scouting report.
“Things kind of unfolded rather quickly,” Servais said. “Geno had no idea what the guy threw, never seen him before. Go play baseball.”
Suarez never attempted a swing while working a five-pitch bases-loaded walk to force in the go-ahead run.
“These things happen,” Servais said. “They just seem to happen to Geno more.”
Gilbert didn’t get a chance at the complete game despite the low pitch count.
“For sure, I always want to keep going, especially at that point and being so close to the end there,” he said. “I thought I might have a chance with the pitch count where it’s at, but we’ve got the best bullpen in baseball.”
He didn’t go Walter on Servais.
“It’s not an easy call. Obviously, he had pitches left and plenty left in the tank,” Servais said. “There’s a lot of things that play into those decisions — what the game feels like there, but I thought he did an awesome job tonight. There’s not a day off before his next start. We’re going to ask so much of our starting pitching as the season goes along. We had a rested bullpen tonight. Your closer’s down there who’s having a great season as well.”
Paul Sewald pitched a scoreless ninth inning to notch his 11th save in 11 attempts.
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