The streak had to come to an end at some point.
The randomness in the results of baseball, regardless of talent discrepancies, and there isn’t a large gap between the Rangers and Mariners, and also varying unpredictability of pitching performances, made it impossible for it to continue.
All it took was a suboptimal outing from a rusty Marco Gonzales and the Mariners’ inability to capitalize on multiple scoring opportunities for the Texas Rangers to pick up a 7-3 victory Saturday night.
It was the Rangers’ first win at T-Mobile Park since July 23, 2019, snapping a streak of 13 straight road losses to the Mariners, which was a Rangers club record. Texas scored six runs off Mariners starter Tommy Milone in that previous win, highlighted by homers from Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor, who are all no longer with the team, and rolled to an easy 7-2 win.
The Rangers’ streak-stopping win was almost as easy.
“It’s hard to run that kind of streak against any ballclub,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We have played well against Texas and we need that to continue. We’re going to see them a lot here the rest of the year. They’re all big games and looking forward to get back out there tomorrow, and hopefully wrap up the series.”
Gonzales returned to the mound for the first time as a dad. He missed his previously scheduled outing last Sunday in Chicago to be in Seattle for the birth of his daughter, Grace. He was reinstated from the paternity list June 30 and threw two bullpen sessions to try to be ready for this start. But bullpens rarely serve as even an adequate simulation of game reps.
“There’s no excuse for me not to be able to get ready for a big-league game,” said Gonzales while wearing a T-shirt that said “Girl Dad.” “Obviously, there was a little bit of time in between games. I was really looking forward to this one. The first couple of innings felt great. And I felt like a little bit of the rust set in, in the third, and I couldn’t quite get back on track.”
The last time Gonzales faced hitters was at T-Mobile Park on June 20 against the Tampa Bay Rays. He pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts. He took a no decision in a Mariners’ 6-2 win on Shed Long Jr.’s walkoff grand slam.
“It’s been about 12 days since Marco had pitched and he was certainly a little rusty command-wise tonight,” Servais said. “He got through the first couple innings and then after that, they were kind of all over him. We were hoping, given the fact he hadn’t pitched in 12 days, he could give us five innings tonight and keep us right in the ballgame. Unfortunately it wasn’t able to happen.”
Gonzales looked like a pitcher who hadn’t thrown in a game in 12 days. He didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. His final line: 3 1/3 innings pitched, seven runs (six earned) allowed on seven hits (three homers and two doubles) with two walks and four strikeouts.
“It’s not how I saw my first start as a dad going,” he said. “But I’ve got to take it with a grain of salt.”
It dropped his overall record to 1-5 with a 5.82 ERA in 10 starts this season.
A creature of habit and preparation, including a regulated routine to keep his mechanics and command precise, Gonzales’ 2021 season has been filled with starts and stops, including a month-long stint on the injured list with a forearm strain, shortened starts upon his return and now the missed time for his daughter.
“This year has had its adversities, to say the least,” he said. “It’s had a lot of ups and downs, starts and stops. For me, I’m not the type of person to make excuses, or to blame anyone besides myself. And it is something that I do need to get on a better rhythm and in a routine and be able to help this team win a few more ballgames.”
Of his 81 pitches thrown, 48 were strikes. The Rangers swung at 36 of those strikes and whiffed on just eight of them. He didn’t seem to have a great feel with any of his off-speed pitches and was forced to rely heavily on his sinking fastball.
It was more than just lacking precision command of pitches, which was somewhat expected given the layoff. He had uncharacteristic misses that were noncompetitive pitches, well out of the strike zone and easy for Texas hitters to shrug off.
Gonzales worked the first two innings without incident, allowing just one hit and striking out a pair of batters.
But his outing fell apart in four-run third inning where all nine Rangers hitters would come to the plate.
One-time Mariners catching prospect John Hicks, who was recently called up by the Rangers, smashed his first of two solo homers off Gonzales to lead off the third inning. A misplaced sinker on a 1-1 count sat in the middle of the plate, just inviting Hicks to hit it hard.
Gonzales shook his head in disgust almost as soon as Hicks made contact, knowing it was a homer.
Charlie Culberson followed with a single and Gonzales walked Isiah Kiner-Falefa to bring 27-year-old rookie utility infielder Eli White to the plate. He ambushed a first-pitch sinker that stayed on the inner-half of the plate, sending a low drive just over the wall in left field and into the visitors’ bullpen. White’s three-run homer made it 4-0.
The Mariners tried to answer the four runs against Rangers starter Jordan Lyles, who was anything but efficient early in the outing.
“We had some chances to get back in the game,” Servais said. “I thought our at-bats tonight throughout the evening were really good. We ran a ton of pitches up on Lyles.”
Seattle loaded the bases with no outs on a bloop single from J.P. Crawford, a fastball off the shoulder of Mitch Haniger and a walk to Kyle Seager. Ty France worked another walk to force Crawford home. But it was the only run the Mariners would get. Jake Fraley hit a weak pop fly to left that was too shallow to tag up on. Dylan Moore struck out swinging and Jake Bauers flew out to deep center.
“I was surprised that Bauers ball, with the way we’ve been going, that it didn’t leave the ballpark,” Servais said. “Off the bat, you felt really good about it. And that was the big hit that kind of would have got us back into the ballgame, but unfortunately didn’t happen. We just didn’t get the big hit and we needed it there in the third inning to kind of get us back in the ballgame.”
Gonzales’ outing ended in the fourth.
Hicks followed his leadoff homer in the third with a solo homer to start the fourth, driving a 2-1 changeup that stayed up in the zone and on the middle of the plate over the wall in left field.
It would get no better for Gonzales. Culberson hit a deep fly that Haniger couldn’t make a leaping catch on. It was ruled a three-base error instead of a triple. Gonzales managed to get a ground ball out that kept the runner at third, but he walked White and gave up a stinging double to Adolis Garcia that ended his evening.
Seattle did get solid relief work from Rafael Montero and Yohan Ramirez, who combined to pitch the final 5 2/3 innings scoreless, allowing one hit each while striking out a combined seven batters and issuing one walk.