Logan Gilbert of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at LoanDepot park on Saturday, June 22, 2024, in Miami. (Megan Briggs / Getty Images)

Logan Gilbert of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at LoanDepot park on Saturday, June 22, 2024, in Miami. (Megan Briggs / Getty Images)

Gilbert fantastic again, but first-place Mariners falter

Seattle loses two of three against Miami, sees its lead in the AL West drop to six games.

  • Tyler Wicke, The News Tribune
  • Monday, June 24, 2024 1:56pm
  • SportsMariners

As Seattle Mariners starters routinely cruise through one scoreless frame after another, manager Scott Servais is the first to offer a fist-bump — waiting on the dugout steps with an unspoken form of encouragement to “keep going.”

The ritual is commonplace these days. Mariners starting pitchers own the most innings pitched (470 2/3) among major-league clubs by a considerable margin. And Logan Gilbert’s latest mesmerizing performance had him the recipient of a flurry of Servais’ fist-bumps.

The 27-year-old righty and MLB leader in innings pitched (106 1/3) silenced the Miami Marlins on Saturday, tossing eight sparkling frames in a 9-0 victory in front of family and within his home state of Florida. Seattle’s workhorse flashed an array of animated pitches and induced ground-ball double plays in each of the first and second innings, expanding the strike zone against overly-aggressive Miami bats.

Virtually unscathed, he trotted off LoanDepot Park’s mound with eight shutout innings, eyeing a complete game as the capper.

But Servais offered Gilbert no fist pump. Instead, the dreaded handshake, the notion of a job well done. At 92 pitches, Gilbert’s fabulous start was over.

“He wouldn’t shake my hand,” Servais said. “And I love it about Logan.”

Had Saturday’s nine-run cushion been smaller, Servais would have considered leaving Gilbert in. The risk-reward simply wasn’t there. More pivotal games await.

“I understand,” Gilbert told reporters. “They have our best interests in mind, trying to protect us. But in the moment, you just want to keep going.

“I just tried to keep my head down and walk past (Servais),” added Gilbert, tongue-in-cheek. “Didn’t get away.”

Gilbert fanned six Marlins, allowing just one walk and four hits. Seattle reliever Eduard Bazardo tossed a clean ninth to preserve Seattle’s victory in the middle game, a much-needed win after dropping Friday’s opener in extras, 3-2.

“He used all of his pitches,” Servais said. “You saw them all. You saw the cutter, at times. The fastball, early in the game. The slider’s always his go-to, the curveball is really mixed in as a nice off-speed pitch for him, and then the split. All of them located, ahead in the count, aggressive. Love to see it.”

In June, Gilbert is 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA. He’s struck out 28 batters and walked one. Opposing bats are slashing just .164/.171/.279 with a .450 OPS against the 6-foot-6 Stetson grad during that span.

Gilbert’s effort was all the more valuable given Seattle floundered in Sunday’s rubber match as Miami rocked Mariners starter Bryce Miller for six runs and two homers in the finale’s first three frames. The Marlins blistered four baseballs 100 mph or harder off Miller, who struggled to harness off-speed pitches. Miami won 6-4.

“Overall, a frustrating day,” Miller said. “The slider could’ve been better. I was yanking a couple, I was falling behind with it.

“I don’t know. I think I have all of the pieces. I just made a couple of bad pitches, got in some bad counts, and they were able to capitalize.”

Perhaps more frustrating was Seattle’s last-gasp rally that fell painfully short with two outs and the bases loaded. Julio Rodriguez appeared to have the game-tying single to right center — until Miami second baseman Otto Lopez robbed the 91-mph liner out of the sky.

All Rodriguez could do was smile.

“I thought we had tied the game,” Servais said. “You’re going to need a few things to go your way late. I thought Julio had a good at-bat. … Just not quite hard enough or far enough.”

Through Sunday the Mariners were 2-4 amid a nine-game road trip, and the 10-game cushion enjoyed over the American League West earlier in the week had dwindled to six.

Still, the Mariners owned a 71.7% chance to win the division, per FanGraphs, and an 82.2% chance to make the playoffs.

Santos throws live session in Miami

Much-needed relief help for Seattle’s bullpen is on the way.

Gregory Santos threw live batting practice ahead of Saturday’s middle game, a crucial step in the hard-throwing right-hander’s return to action.

Santos, 24, was acquired from the Chicago White Sox on Feb. 3, an ideal seventh-inning setup man ahead of Matt Brash and Andres Munoz. But Brash will miss the rest of the 2024 season after undergoing successful Tommy John surgery last month, and Santos has yet to appear for the Mariners since his acquisition due to a lingering right lat strain.

The latter faced Seattle’s Ryan Bliss and Tyler Locklear in Saturday’s session and flashed nasty splitters and sliders that have the Mariners eager for his return. Santos is scheduled to throw another bullpen session this week in Tampa before a minor-league assignment.

“(Gregory’s) excited to get out there,” Servais said. “I know [Director of Pitching Strategy] Trent Blank is excited to see him out there. Trent’s kind of been his personal coach here over the last month or so to get him up and going, and it’s worked.”

Short hops

Has the Bliss breakout arrived? He recorded consecutive three-hit games Friday and Saturday in Miami, including two doubles and a triple. Entering Sunday’s finale, Bliss’ .876 OPS in June ranked fourth-best among qualifying second basemen in MLB. “Ryan Bliss is smokin’ hot here in the last couple of days,” Servais said. “Which is great to see when young players start to settle in and take off.” … The Mariners lead MLB with 47 quality starts, going 36-11 in those contests. Seattle boasts the only rotation with four starters having tossed eight or more quality starts this season: Gilbert (13), Luis Castillo (10), George Kirby (9) and Miller (8).

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