With the win, Seattle improves to 81-66 on the season. Another win and the Mariners will have a winning season, which is a forgettable tradeoff for failing to make the postseason.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — By multiple measures — statistics, performance and comfort — the 2018 season has been anything but normal for Dee Gordon. His batting average has fallen to around .260-.270, his on-base percentage is below .300, he’s been playing hurt for most of the season while never being quite sure which position will be next to his name on each day’s lineup card.
Acquired before the season and asked to convert from second base, where he was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner with the Marlins, to center field, Gordon embraced the situation despite the unfamiliarity. When Robinson Cano accepted an 80-game suspension in mid-May, Gordon was asked to move back to second despite not working at his old position once during spring.
And then when Cano was reinstated, Gordon was asked to play second base, center field and shortstop at varying times, all while dealing with a broken toe that he suffered May 9 and won’t completely heal until he stops playing in games.
But as the 2018 season nears its end, Gordon is still out there playing hard and trying to salvage a strong finish to the marathon much like his team. It was evident in the Mariners’ 5-0 win over the Angels on Friday night.
“It’s been weird,” Gordon said of his season. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Anybody who doesn’t play in the big leagues would definitely love to be in my shoes. I definitely don’t take that for granted.”
Seattle improved to 81-66 on the season. Another win and the Mariners will have a winning season, which will be a forgettable consolation prize for failing to make the postseason yet again. But that’s where they have put themselves despite once holding an 11 1/2 game lead in the second wild card in June.
Besides making a possible highlight reel catch against the wall in center field, Gordon also had a key two-run single to push a close game into a comfortable win.
So which was better?
“The catch, definitely the catch,” he said. “It was pretty cool. It was the first one of my life. I’m pretty happy.”
With Gordon under contract for the next two seasons and earning more than $13 million in each of them, the Mariners are committed to him as an investment, unless general manager Jerry Dipoto plans to trade him with his value at its lowest.
“When Dee Gordon is in the middle of the action whether it’s offense or defense, he plays with a flair, has a smile on his face and it really energizes our club,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “We have asked him to do a lot this year. He’s had a down year offensively compared to what he’s typically used to having. But I keep telling him he’s a batting champ. Go up there and get your swings in and have good at-bats.”
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So getting Gordon back to his career numbers in 2019 and perhaps some level of stability in the field is paramount. They need to make a decision where they want to play Gordon going forward because the bouncing back and forth between positions seems to be detrimental.
“He’s a big part of our team,” Servais said. “He was when we were going really good. And he’s been frustrated by the season he’s had, but he’s trying to finish it out on a positive note.”
With 15 games left, Gordon wants to play as much as he can.
“Just continue to grind it out and do things the right way and try to help us continue win ballgames,” he said. “It’s still about winning each day. And I’m going to try and help us do that.”
After being held hitless against Matt Shoemaker for the first three innings, the Mariners broke though in the fourth inning. Mitch Haniger led off with a single and advanced to second on a wayward pickoff throw from Shoemaker. Jean Segura singled to move Haniger to third and Cano followed with a crisp single to drive in the first run of the game.
Later in the inning with two outs and runners on second and third, Ryon Healy pulled a ground ball through the left side to score both runners, giving Seattle a 3-0 lead.
“We haven’t had a lot of those — the clutch two-out single,” Servais said.
The Mariners saved a run in the bottom of the inning when Gordon, playing in just the 45th game of his career in center field, made an awkward but effective leaping catch up against the wall, taking away a possible homer from Mike Trout — a player who has robbed countless homers from the Mariners.
“He never robbed me so I don’t have no beef with him, but it was cool to catch his,” Gordon said.
For the brief period early in the season when Gordon was a full-time center fielder, he struggled with making catches near or against the wall. His past frustrations and failures at that inability was evident as he sat on the warning track with the ball in his glove, saying “I did it” and doing a little happy dance after he got up.
“There was nothing graceful about what I did,” he said. “I’m an infielder. I’m just out there because I gotta be. I knew it wasn’t going to be graceful. But I caught one and it’s pretty cool. When I looked up and saw my glove go over the wall, I was like, ‘No, I think I dropped it’ because I didn’t feel the ball in glove. And then I looked and I was ‘Oh, I got it! Sick. I’m going to hold on to it for a little bit because it was my first one.'”
Seattle pushed the lead to 5-0 in the seventh inning. Healy drew a leadoff walk, Kyle Seager hammered a double into the right-field corner and Gordon scored them both with a crisp single into left off hard-throwing reliever Hansel Robles.
“Especially with runners in scoring position, I’ve been having terrible luck this year,” he said. “It was good to get us some insurance runs.”
With James Paxton in Seattle still dealing with the effects of pneumonia, the Mariners were forced to go with a bullpen start — featuring a series of relievers. The outcomes of those games can be a bit unpredictable, but “starter” Roenis Elias and the five relievers that followed combined to shut out the Angels, including holding Trout and Shohei Ohtani hitless on the night.
“We shut them out with our bullpen guys,” Servais said. “A lot of credit goes to those guys. Elias hasn’t been out there a lot. I thought his stuff was really good tonight. All the guys chipped in. It’s nice get all those guys in there and have them contribute. I can’t remember the last time we won back to back games when Eddie Diaz didn’t pitch.”