A night after combining for 20 runs on 26 hits with seven homers in a never-ending slowpitch-softball-like slugfest, the Dodgers and Mariners delivered quite the opposite with a more normal form of baseball Tuesday in the finale of the two-game series at Dodger Stadium.
But regardless of the style of this game, the blemishes of the Mariners team this year – minor miscues that end up being costly against good team, a major malfunctioning bullpen and an offense that is highly unpredictable – could not be hidden or avoided in a 2-1 defeat.
Despite a brilliant outing from starter Marco Gonzales, the Mariners’ offense that looked so potent less that 24 hours earlier couldn’t generate the requisite run support to put him in line for a victory or provide a lead of any sort. Meanwhile, the mercurial bullpen didn’t implode, but did allow the go-ahead run in its first and only inning of work.
Reliever Dan Altavilla entered in the eighth inning with the game tied at 1-1 and eventually gave up the go-ahead RBI-single to Corey Seager on a 3-2 slider with two outs.
Similar to most of the evening, the Mariners had no answer in the ninth, going down 1-2-3 against reliever Blake Treinen.
After winning the opening game of the eight-game road trip, Seattle lost the last seven games. The Mariners (7-18) return home for a brief five-game homestand, starting Wednesday at 6:40 p.m. with two more games against the Dodgers (18-7).
“I know we certainly would’ve liked to win a few more ballgames on this trip, but I couldn’t be any happier with the way we’re playing,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “We’re competitive. We’re right there against really, really good teams. Our guys are learning. You can see it if you’re watching us every day, you see how they’re growing, and they’re getting more confident in the quality at-bats and whatnot.”
Facing a dangerous and power-laden lineup that has made the Dodgers the most prolific offense in baseball, averaging a MLB-leading 5.79 runs a game with 46 homers, also the most in baseball, Gonzales delivered perhaps his best outing of the season. He worked seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits – all singles — with no walks while tying a career-high with nine strikeouts.
“It started with what Marco brought today, just an awesome outing,” Servais said. “He just dominated the strike zone really from the first pitch of the game through seven innings and really shutting down a team like that says a lot.”
Gonzales struck out the side twice and held the Dodgers’ first five hitters – Mookie Betts, Seager, Justin Turner, A.J. Pollock and Cody Bellinger — to just two hits in 15 plate appearances.
“I’m thinking as I’m watching the game today, I don’t think you could draw it up any better as far as like what you’re looking for young pitchers to emulate,” Servais said. “What Marco Gonzales does in his preparation, execution, his competitiveness, can’t say enough about the job that he did today and continues to do.”
While some pitchers get timid and try to throw unhittable pitches on the edge of the zone, Gonzales started in attack mode and didn’t stop.
“It doesn’t matter, man,” Gonzales said. “You can put any lineup out there and I’m gonna stick with my Plan A and pitch to my strengths. It took me a long time to learn in this league to be on the attack, be aggressive and that puts guys on their heels. Yeah, they got a good lineup, but I’m pretty good, too. So I just want to find out what I had and go toe-to-toe with them. I liked how it came out.”
Gonzales used all four pitches with success. He threw 35 sinkers, 23 cutters, 23 curveballs and 21 changeups. Of the 25 batters faced, he threw 20 first-pitch strikes.
“It’s the epitome of pitching,” Servais said. “It’s not just somebody out there throwing 98 miles an hour with a wicked slider. It is back and forth, using both sides of the plate, top of the strike zone, below the strike zone. You can’t draw it up any better than what he did today. I just love that demeanor he has when he takes the mound — very, very competitive. He does have that bulldog in him and you can see it come out. He really wanted that ballgame today and really wanted to show it against a very good team. He shut them down.”
Gonzales got some help from his defense. Kyle Lewis made a marvelous leaping grab at the wall on a drive from Turner that might have been a two-run homer and definitely would’ve scored a run. Shortstop J.P. Crawford also turned a nifty tag and throw to first while playing in the shift to end the seventh inning.
“That was really cool,” Lewis said of his catch. “I’ve been working on balls at the wall, timing my jumps. There have been quite a few plays earlier this year that have been really close and could’ve been better if I timed them up. I knew I was going to have a chance based on the trajectory.”
The Dodgers’ lone run off Gonzales came in the fourth. Austin Barnes led off with a swinging bunt single to the left side of the mound. Gonzales, one of the best fielding pitchers in baseball, scampered off the mound to glove it, but his off-balance throw to first wasn’t in time.
“I could probably make that play eight times out of 10, but I didn’t get a good jump to it,” he said. “I don’t think I could have got him with a good throw.”
With one out, Seager hit a hard ground ball to first baseman Evan White, who took two steps to his left, stepped on first base and then fired to second to try and get Barnes. The throw was high and Barnes slid in safe. Should White, a brilliant defensive first baseman and future Gold Glover, have fired to second to get the lead runner instead? In hindsight, yes.
Because the next batter, Turner, singled through the left side past a diving Crawford to score Barnes from second.
“It’s a tough read,” Servais said. “If the ball’s not hit very hard, I would say that the normal first baseman you step on first and you move on. Evan’s not normal, we know he’s well above average. You’re probably not going to get a double play on that ball either way, but keeping that guy out of scoring position? If he had to do it over again, he may have thrown to second, but I don’t have a problem with it.”
It was another teachable moment.
“He continues to gain experience and understanding where we were at in the game and the type of game it was,” Servais said. “I think everybody could see it was going to come down to one hit, or one big play here or there as the game wore on.”
After getting shut down by Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin, Seattle’s lone run came in the seventh against the Dodgers bullpen to tie the game. Lewis drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a ground-ball out from pinch hitter Tim Lopes.