A Mariners lineup that has welcomed Mitch Haniger back still clearly misses Julio Rodriguez’s presence at the top of it. And the timetable for his return seems to vary from day-to-day based on how his right wrist/hand feels.
After a strong start to the 2022 season when he looked like the Mariners’ best starting pitcher, Logan Gilbert has had to endure a gantlet of outings vs. the best teams in baseball as he continues to add his already career high in innings for a season.
And though they were never going to continue winning at their ridiculous rate entering the All-Star break, getting drubbed 9-4 by the New York Yankees on Monday night at T-Mobile Park leaves the Mariners with an 8-10 record since the Midsummer Classic.
“Not our night,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Not a great way to start the series, obviously we have to wash it away. We got two big games left against these guys. We’ll give the ball to Luis [Castillo] tomorrow and go out and play a little bit better ballgame.”
At 59-52, their wins from the 22-3 stretch have helped offset this run that’s included two series vs. the Yankees and Houston Astros.
Upon recollection, an 8-10 record seems better than the baseball the Mariners have played at times. The Mariners have struggled to score runs, with Rodriguez playing only five of those games, and have had a handful of ugly starting pitching performances.
They haven’t collapsed during this stretch, but they’ve failed to overtake the Toronto Blue Jays for the first AL wild-card spot or pull away from the Tampa Bay Rays after trading spots for the second wild card multiple times. Seattle has also allowed the Baltimore Orioles, who have won six of their past seven to pull within a game of the third wild card, and the Cleveland Guardians at 1.5 games back of them.
The Mariners can clinch nothing in August. And they won’t be able to do it in September without a healthy and productive Gilbert, regardless of how easy their schedule gets in the final months.
The lanky right-hander slogged through his worst outing of the season, which eclipsed his previous outing, also vs. the Yankees, for that infamous title.
He pitched season-low four innings, allowing seven runs on 10 hits — both season highs — with a walk and two strikeouts.
Over the four outings since the break — two vs. the Astros and two vs. the Yankees — Gilbert has an 0-2 record with a 7.17 ERA. He has allowed 17 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings on 27 hits, including five homers, with nine walks and 18 strikeouts. Most of the damage came in two starts vs. the Yankees, who racked up 13 runs on 17 hits, including four homers.
“It’s a good challenge,” he said. “This is the best baseball in the world at the highest level. Yeah, I want to do better. I want to execute better. Right now we’re in the second half of the season, trying to make the wild card, so of course I’m trying to improve every time out, and facing teams like this is a good way to do that. But at the end of the day I have to find a way to win games when it’s my day. That’s my job.”
Those struggles against one team — though many pitchers struggle against the Yankees — are less than optimal for the Mariners in the postseason.
With his four innings Monday, Gilbert has thrown 132 1/3 innings this season in 23 starts. A year ago he threw 119 1/3 innings in 24 starts.
While the Mariners have been open about their concern with George Kirby’s workload increase, they’ve been privately cautious about Gilbert’s increase, hoping his maniacal preparation between starts would help offset fatigue-related regression.
But are they seeing it now?
“I’m not seeing that,” Servais said. “I think coming out of the All-Star break, he has faced the Astros and the Astros and the Yankees and the Yankees. This happens. They have good lineups, very deep lineups. I think his stuff is good, and he’s competing very well.”
Gilbert acknowledged that he’s made changes to his preparation to combat the increase in his workload.
“I feel good,” he said. “I mean, it’s August. I don’t think anybody feels perfect, but I’m not gonna sit here and say that my body doesn’t feel good or anything like that when I know there’s other guys that probably feel worse or more fatigued. With that said, I’ve tried to do a better job at limiting my workload in between starts. I’ve had some conversations with other guys about trying to limit that. So [I’m] trying to do a better job.”
The Yankees and their aggressive approach took advantage of Gilbert’s wandering command and inability to close out innings after retiring the first two hitters. New York had runners on base and scored runs in three innings in which Gilbert got two outs.
It started bad for the right-hander and didn’t improve.
D.J. LeMahieu led off the game with a single, and Aaron Judge followed with a ground-rule double to right field. Gilbert struck out Matt Carpenter, who fouled a ball off his foot and suffered a fracture, for the first out. After getting up 0-2 on Josh Donaldson, Gilbert couldn’t put him away, allowing a two-run single on a 3-2 fastball at 97 mph.
Seattle answered in the bottom half of the inning against Yankees starter Jameson Taillon, with Haniger blasting a solo homer into left-center. It was his first homer since his return from injury Saturday.
Gilbert gave up two more runs in the third on a solo homer to Donaldson and a double to Andrew Benintendi.
The Mariners trimmed the deficit to two at to 4-2 when J.P. Crawford worked an 11-pitch walk off Taillon with the bases loaded. For a few agonizing seconds, it looked like the Mariners might have a 6-4 lead when Cal Raleigh launched a deep fly ball down the right-field line. As it carried to the wall, the ball leaked just foul. Raleigh would ground out, and the rally was done.
Gilbert started the fifth inning, but did not record an out. He gave up a ground-rule double to Donaldson in the left-field corner that Jesse Winker got a late break on. Gleyber Torres followed with a deep double to center. And Benintendi ended Gilbert’s outing with a double off the wall in left field that Winker made an awkward attempt to catch. He exited when Gilbert came out due to back spasms.
The Yankees added another run charged to Gilbert off Penn Murfee to make it 7-2.
Raleigh got his homer in the seventh inning, a solo blast.
Besides Winker, the Mariners lost lefty Ryan Borucki to an arm injury. After allowing a massive homer to Judge in a mop-up appearance in the ninth, Borucki threw a pitch to Benintendi that had him feeling discomfort. After a conversation with athletic trainer Kevin Orloski and Servais, he exited the game.