Gilbert sharp in 3rd spring start, Mariners edge Royals

The young starter allows two runs in four innings with no walks and six strikeouts in Seattle’s 8-6 win.

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By Ryan Divish / The Seattle Times

Mariners 8, Royals 6 at Peoria Sports Complex

PEORIA, Ariz. — Entering his third Cactus League start, Logan Gilbert had a short list of things he wanted to accomplish Tuesday afternoon.

1. He wanted to keep refining his new pitch, a split-finger fastball/changeup. He threw about seven or eight splitters Tuesday, getting a swing-and-miss strikeout with it on his 64th and final pitch in the fourth inning.

Check.

2. He wanted to use his breaking pitches specifically when he’d fallen behind in counts, and he did that on a few occasions. His curveball, in particular, was as sharp as its been in quite some time.

Check.

3. He wanted to work his four-seam in the top of the zone, particularly in his last inning, and he did so on several pitches, touching 96 mph.

Check.

“I felt pretty good,” the 25-year-old right-hander said. “The slider location, honestly, was probably the best it’s felt. So that was pretty good. And Tom (Murphy) really liked the curveball, so went to that quite a bit, especially ahead in the count, which last year I really didn’t do much. So I think that could be a new weapon to utilize, hopefully.”

Gilbert allowed two runs in four innings, with no walks and six strikeouts against the Royals’ “B” lineup. He has struck out 10 in 8.1 innings this spring, walking just two.

He’s gaining confidence with the splitter.

“Especially ahead in the count, the batter’s not really sure what the spin looks like,” Gilbert said. “When I throw that, I think it open up everything else after that.”

Murphy, the veteran catcher, said both the splitter and curveball from Gilbert have been improving.

“I think (the splitter) is going to be a phenomenal pitch,” Murphy said, “as long as it’s located well. It’s a new pitch for him, obviously. And it’s a tough pitch for pitchers to get a feel for. But Logan’s hands are so gigantic that it’s pretty normal for him. I think when you see just white on white — where it’s over the middle of the plate — you’re just going to see it’s a disgusting, bottom-falls-out splitty.”

On Gilbert’s curveball: “Honestly, it’s maybe the pitch I’ve been most impressed with this entire spring out of Logan. … It’s really good. It’s going to be an effective pitch for him again.”

Kolton Wong drove in two runs in the second inning, and Jared Kelenic and Murphy had back-to-back RBI doubles in the fifth.

Mike Ford hit a towering solo homer in the seventh, and catcher Jacob Nottingham lumbered around the bases for an inside-the-park home run, diving headfirst and using a swim move to beat the tag at home plate.

Royals center fielder John Rave crashed headfirst into the wall in deep right-center trying to catch the fly ball off Nottingham’s bat. After being checked by a trainer, Rave walked off the field on his own.

Randy Bednar, in his first at-bat this spring, blasted a home run off the batter’s eye in the eighth to extend the Mariners’ lead to 8-4.

Player of the game

Nottingham, at 255 pounds, had never hit an inside-the-park homer. “First one of my life,” he said. As he approached third, he was expecting to see a stop sign from third base coach Manny Acta. “And then I saw him smiling and knew he was going to send me,” Nottingham said.

Quotable

“I just now finally caught my breath.” — Nottingham, almost an hour after his trip around the bases

On tap

The Mariners travel to Hohokam Park to face the Oakland A’s on Wednesday afternoon. Left-hander Marco Gonzales will get the start for Seattle. Also scheduled to pitch for Seattle are right-handers Prelander Berroa, Tommy Milone, Chris Clarke, JP Bukauskas, Taylor Williams, Jose Rodriguez.

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