The frustration and anger pulsed through Marco Gonzales’ body. All the pitches that avoided their expected and proper location, all the subsequent hits allowed, all the runs scored from those hits, all the losing, so much damn losing.
Beneath Gonzales’ boy-next-door appearance is a vicious and aggressive competitor. And as he stood in the dugout watching an awful game turn unwatchable, Gonzales paced the dugout, glaring at the world, eventually kicking a garbage can over when one of the runners that he’d left on base scored.
A few teammates and staff members heard the incident and looked back at Gonzales briefly, but knew it was best to let him be. Eventually, Gonzales stopped his walk of irritation and stood with hands on hips, watching his team slog through yet another loss before exiting the dugout, but not before he picked up the garbage can and returned it to its normal place.
Gonzales endured yet another brutal outing in a stretch that has featured too many suboptimal starts. A seven-run second inning submarined the Mariners’ victory hopes early in what ended up being a 13-3 rout.
“I care,” he said of his anger. “I care a lot to a fault. I want this team to win. I don’t care if we are forfeiting our wins or not. It’s a matter of we need to go out and beat people. When that’s not the case. When that falls on me, of course I’m going to be upset, of course I’m going to be emotional. Yes, this is what we do for a living. This is how we make our livelihood, but when it comes down to it, being a competitor comes first.”
Despite his desire to “wear it,” this wasn’t all on Gonzales. The Mariners’ abysmal defense made three more errors and committed other mistakes that weren’t errors but led to runs.
“We’ve played this game a few times this year,” manager Scott Servais said. “I’ve about had enough of it, quite frankly. When you don’t throw strikes and you don’t play defense and you don’t make plays, that’s hard to watch. You’ll have ups and downs with the bat, but you’ve got to make the plays and you have to throw strikes. It’s bad baseball. That’s what it is.”
Gonzales started the season 5-0 with his team winning six of his first seven starts, but the Mariners have suffered defeats in his past seven starts with Gonzales being charged with the loss in six of them.
Over those seven starts, he’s pitched 32 1/3 innings, allowing 44 hits, 37 runs and 28 earned runs for a 7.79 earned-run average along with 13 walks and 17 strikeouts.
He took the blame for all of it.
“It starts with being accountable,” he said. “The way that I pitched was just unacceptable. Not giving my team a chance to win. Exposing our bullpen too early in the game. I think there’s a lot of things I need to work on. I need to help this team win. I need to be a guy that’s dependable and reliable and that hasn’t been the case. I’ll be the first one to say that’s on me.”
The command and crispness of Gonzales’ pitches has been inconsistent in those past seven starts.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” he said. “It’s lack of conviction. Mechanically, I’m not sure if that’s the case. But more than anything, it’s a mindset of being aggressive and going out there and shutting people down. That’s something that’s been missing in part of my game. It will be a continuous effort to fix that.”
Besides the command problems, the Mariners worry that hitters might have picked up something on him.
“We saw him walk a few guys and struggle to put guys away when he does get ahead in the count,” Servais said. “It’s almost like at times they know what’s coming, which is something else we need to look at.”
Asked if he might be tipping his pitches, Gonzales shrugged it off.
“It could be,” he said. “It’s hard to stand here and make that excuse. I’m not going to be that guy. So I will take it upon myself to make the changes that I need to make to be effective in the ballgame.”
After dealing with multiple injuries early in his career including Tommy John surgery, Gonzales believes he can fix this issue.
“For me, this is not a mountain that I can’t climb,” he said. “When you are defeated and you get beat, the best way to get out of it is go back to work. I’m going to hold myself accountable to that to be the one that turns it around when I need to turn it around.”
The second inning was an interminable mess. The Angels sent 11 batters to the plate, scoring seven runs on five hits and that’s with Gonzales striking out Cesar Puello to start the inning. With one out, he allowed a single, hit a batter, gave up a bloop RBI double to Brian Goodwin, watched shortstop Dylan Moore make a failed decision to try and get an out at third base instead of taking a routine out at first base, gave up another RBI double, a sac fly and served up a three-run homer to Albert Pujols.
The Mariners got two of their three runs in the game back in the bottom of the inning to try and give the score some semblance of respectability and perhaps start some sort of protracted rally. But it never happened.
To Gonzales’ credit, he worked the next two innings scoreless but never made it out of the fifth, exiting with two outs and the bases loaded and his pitch total at 95.
His replacement, right-hander Connor Sadzeck, allowed all three of those runners to score. Sadzeck wild pitched one run and gave up a soft two-out single to Mike Trout that was just out of the reach of a leaping Moore.
The inning would continue as the Angels batted around in an inning for the second time in the game. A missed catch by Kyle Seager on a line drive off the bat of Shohei Ohtani allowed the inning to continue. Pujols hit a long fly ball to center field for what should have been the fifth out of the inning. But Mallex Smith lost the ball in the sun and allowed it bounce on the warning track and over the wall for a two-run double.
The Mariners’ lone bright spot on the day came from Seager, who had a double and his first homer.
“We didn’t get too much good going today,” Seager said. “You’ve got a lot of competitive guys in here. We’ll bounce back and be ready to play tomorrow.”