After a hot start to the season that earned him AL Pitcher of the Month in April, Logan Gilbert had struggled a bit in August: His ERA for the month had ballooned to nearly 6.75, with a FIP of 5.06. His coats plunged, and his walks rose, and Gilbert searched for answers. One answer, he said, came in part in fine-tuning his putting stroke, giving him more consistency and control on the court. So far in September, Gilbert has been a one-man crew. His K% has jumped to a career-high 34.3% while lowering his walk rate to a stingy 6%, and he hasn’t allowed a homer this month. And those stats don’t even include today, when he handled the Angels through six innings of work, struck out a career-high 11 batters and helped stop a skid that had seen a depleted Mariners team lose its first three games in this series.
Gilbert set the tone early. After the Mariners jumped out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to JP Crawford leading off with a single and Ty France hitting a double into the left corner to score JP, Gilbert was determined to keep the Angels off the board in the bottom of the the first. It took 19 pitches, most of which were spent battling Ohtani in a 12-pitch battle, but Gilbert emerged victorious:
It should also be mentioned that Gilbert got help from Toro to save the run in the third out with a skillful backhanded play:
After that, Gilbert put on his Walter hat and struck out the side in the second, all swinging, blasting a fastball past Taylor Ward at 97 and sending both Thaiss and Ford chasing his slider. That slider was key for Gilbert today, as the Angels hitters just couldn’t find it; he threw it about a third of the time, achieving an outrageous 50% whiff rate on the field. All the traffic Gilbert had on the bases, he was able to work around: in the third, Livan Soto snuck a ground ball through the four-hole for the Angels’ first hit of the day, but Gilbert struck out Sierra on the slider and got the troublesome Rengifo to ground out harmlessly.
Gilbert ran into trouble in the bottom of the fourth: with two outs, including a strikeout by Ohtani, Taylor Ward singled up the middle and then Matt Thaiss walked some very close pitches, bringing in former friend Mike Ford. After a little pep talk from JP, Gilbert engaged Walter Mode and hit Ford on three pitches – the slider again, natch – to shut down the Angels.
The Mariners offense was slow to get going, suffering from a severe case of Sequenceitis early on. JP Crawford hit a one-out triple in the third, and was stranded. Sam Haggerty hit a two-out double in the fourth and was stranded. Finally, in the fifth, Carlos Santana had had enough. Angels starter Jose Suárez had danced in and out of trouble all day, but in the fifth he suffered a complete loss of command: he walked Curt Casali, not exactly an offensive threat, on four pitches before allowing a single to Mitch Haniger and hits Ty France on the foot with a pitch. That brought up Carlos Santana with two outs, who showed why a veteran presence can be a boon to a team as he waited patiently for a struggling Suarez, who fell behind 3-0. After Santana refused to swing at a hit up the middle of the plate, Suarez made a pretty good challenge — a 91.5 MPH fastball on the outside of the plate. If he missed, it would be a trip, minimal damage; if he didn’t, and Santana didn’t swing, it would be an inning-ending strikeout; if Santana swung, he probably wouldn’t make very good contact.
About the last part:
Today, Carlos really lived up to his nickname Slamtana. This 108 MPH rifle shot had the highest EV of the game. It was his 18th homer of the season, the 277th of his career, and as he said later, it was his mother’s birthday, so he wanted to give her something special.
Thank you, Carlos’ mom, for sharing your gift with Mariners fans.
Armed with a five-run lead, Walter/Logan came back out in the fifth to shut out the Angels again, striking out Moniak, this time breaking out the knuckle curve for a called strikeout—his career-high ninth strikeout, and on a or otherwise the first crossing of the day. Gilbert then followed that up with a swinging strikeout to Sierra, setting another career high, and thanks to his efficiency with the pitches (save for the Ohtani 12-pitch fest to lead off the game), he had at least one inning left in the idea.
The Angels finally got to Gilbert in the sixth. With one out, Ohtani, who had already struck out twice, tagged Gilbert with a double down the line; which was followed by hard contact to Matt Duffy – Dylan Moore almost made an incredible catch up the middle but couldn’t hold on, putting runners at second and third. A sac fly by Taylor Ward brought home a run, but then Gilbert was able to put away Matt Thaiss with his new career-high 11th strikeout, another swinging one, this time on 98 MPH throttle on Gilbert’s 98th pitch. day:
Logan Gilbert hit 98 MPH on his 98th pitch of the day for his career-high 11th strikeout, capped off by a primal roar/stare from Walter: pic.twitter.com/XgdCZUj0dp
— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) 19 September 2022
Gilbert would finish having thrown 61% of first pitches, with 66% of total pitches thrown for strikes. He was absolutely dominant at a time when the Mariners needed him the most, just as he had been back in mid-April, when the Mariners were on a four-game losing streak and he led them to a 5–1 victory over the White Sox; he did the same on May 1, allowing just three hits and one run to a then-hot Marlins team after the Mariners had lost four in a row.
But it takes a bump to back up a strong pitching performance—there have been times this season when Gilbert did everything he could to stop a losing streak, but the offense let him down (see: back-to-back starts against Houston in July when he gave up just two runs each outing and was tagged with one loss and one no decision). Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem today, as the Mariners continued to pour it on against the Angels’ fluffy bullpen. Zack Weiss held off the Mariners in the sixth, but opened the seventh by hitting JP Crawford with a slider and then walking Mitch Haniger on five pitches. Taking the opportunity to get straight, Ty France did his best trout imitation and sent this ball over the midfield wall; amusingly, the ball went right over an ad for French frozen yogurt with a small French flag in the middle:
Later, Carlos Santana got his mom an extra gift, adding a solo homer to make it 9-1 Mariners.
Meanwhile, Matt Boyd, Diego Castillo and Penn Murfee kept things down for the Mariners’ bullpen, making sure there was no comeback and sweep by the Angels. Boyd made quick work of the Angels in the seventh, setting them down 1-2-3 and concluding with a four-pitch strikeout of Livan Soto in which the rookie didn’t take the bat off his shoulder. Boyd touched 95 with his fastball, a good sign as he continues to return to form after missing most of this season, not getting a ball out of his infield. Boyd ran into some trouble in the eighth, giving up a, but then it was the Angels’ turn to leave the bases loaded when Diego Castillo entered. Feels good when it’s not us! Murfee shut things out, and while all of the relievers allowed a little more traffic than you’d like, they did record at least one strikeout to give the Mariners pitching staff 15 punchouts on the day. Again, feels really good when it’s not us.
With this win, the Mariners salvage one game out of what would have been a sweep if not for the stupid lockout plan, so I guess to thank the owners? The Mariners also get the pleasure of officially eliminating the Angels from the playoffs. Kick rocks, Phil Nevin & co.
The Mariners head up the coast now to Oakland for a three-game set with the Athletics before boarding a plane to Kansas City to conclude their final road trip of the season. If you can, we’ll see Saturday’s game against the Royals at Growler Guys on Lake City Way at 4:10. We had a blast last time, so stop by if you have a chance!