PITTSBURGH — As a junior at Gonzaga in 2013, Marco Gonzales went 7-3 with a 2.80 earned-run average on the mound and led the Zags at the plate with a .311 batting average, earning him the John Olerud Award as college baseball’s best two-way player.
Which is a long way of saying this: The dude can hit a little.
And, yes, he’s proven he can pitch too.
Gonzales threw one of his best games of the season and had his first hit as a Mariner — a double off Pittsburgh starter Mitch Keller — to carry the Mariners to a 6-0 victory to open their three-game series against the Pirates on Tuesday night at PNC Park.
The 27-year-old left-hander (16-11) won his 16th game of the season, quite a feat for a last-place Seattle team (63-88) that is now 25 games under .500. Indeed, Gonzales’ 16 wins account for 25.4% of the Mariners’ victories this season — the highest percentage of any pitcher in the majors this season.
Gonzales’ final line Tuesday: 7 innings, 0 runs, 6 hits, 4 strikeouts, 0 walks. He lowered his season ERA to 4.14. It was his first scoreless outing since April 25 against Texas, when he also threw seven innings.
“Marco was on top of his game tonight,” manager Scott Servais said. “He’s as competitive as they come.”
Gonzales’ 16 wins are the most by a Seattle pitcher since Felix Hernandez had 18 in 2015.
Sure, pitchers’ wins have been devalued in this era of advanced analytics. For Gonzales, what’s more important is that he hasn’t missed a start this season — and he still has two more scheduled starts to try to reach the 200-inning plateau, a milestone that’s becoming more and more rare for pitchers these days.
“The one main goal I had this year was to make all my starts and to be a reliable guy for this team and help us win ballgames,” said Gonzales, who has thrown a career-high 189 innings.
The Pirates’ Melky Cabrera and Jose Osuna opened the seventh inning with back-to-back singles off Gonzales. But Gonzales escaped when he got Elias Diaz looking at an inside fastball for strike three; a line out by Colin Moran; and a pop out by Erik Gonzalez. That ended Gonzales’ night. As he walked off the field, he pumped his left hand into his glove five times and pointed to catcher Omar Narvaez.
“All year, I’ve prided myself on being able to pitch with traffic and limit damage and not let anything snowball on me,” Gonzales said. “So I take pride in an inning like that, and I think it makes me a better pitcher.”
In his first at-bat, Gonzales fouled off two pitches from Keller before striking out looking at a 3-2 fastball. That was after Servais had given Gonzales the “take” sign on a 3-1 count.
After he got back in the dugout, Gonzales shook off the idea of another “take” from his manager.
“What, you don’t think I can go deep?” Gonzales said, as relayed by Servais.
In his second at-bat, in the fifth, Gonzales pulled a 94-mph fastball to right field and hustled into second for his third career double. He was an accomplished hitter at Gonzaga, and he had did have four hits in 12 at-bats in his first three big-league seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2013.
He then scored from second when Shed Long singled off Keller.
“That was a lot of fun,” Gonzales said. “That’s kind of what my whole career was like there (at Gonzaga) — just throwing and then gearing up for an at-bat later.”
“I was just trying to take a short swing and get the barrel on the ball,” Gonzales said. “I just tried to have fun. I was expecting to get a couple bunts down today, but it didn’t line up so I had to get the swing off a little bit.”
Narvaez (No. 22), Austin Nola (No. 10) and Long (No. 4) all homered for the Mariners. Narvaez and Nola went back-to-back in the sixth off Pirates reliever Michael Feliz. Long hit a … long … blast to right field that nearly left the park, ricocheting off the back railing.
Dee Gordon’s sacrifice fly scored Narvaez for the Mariners’ first run.
M’s rookie Kyle Lewis, who’d been in a tear in his first six big-league games, went 0 for 5 with four strikeouts.