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Mariners LHP Marco Gonzales
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Dipoto: Young M’s followed ‘top-20 pitcher’ Marco Gonzales during streak

Mariners LHP Marco Gonzales has quiety been one of MLB's best pitchers since 2018. (Getty)

One of the biggest bright spots for the young 2020 Mariners has been the starting rotation, which, after a rough spell to start the shortened season, has been one of the better rotations in the American League if not all of Major League Baseball.

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A lot of the attention this season has been placed on the young players and rookies, and in the starting rotation that means a ton of eyes have been on Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, who have both been throwing the ball well recently. But the Mariners’ opening day starter for the second year in a row, left-hander Marco Gonzales, has quietly been putting together perhaps the best season of his career. In eight starts, Gonzales is 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 50 2/3 innings (full stats here).

Gonzales, who is extremely competitive and is often referred to as a “bulldog” (especially fitting for him as a former Gonzaga standout), is giving the Mariners a chance to win every time he gets the ball, and the team and the young starting pitchers are following his lead, general manager Jerry Dipoto told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Thursday.

“It’s who he is. It’s the way he carries himself in our clubhouse, the way he is with his teammates, the way he is in the community,” Dipoto said. “And I say all that and the easiest thing to overlook with Marco, which I find really crazy, is how good he’s been on the mound.”

Not only is the 28-year-old Gonzales pitching about as well as any starter in baseball this season, but he’s developed into one of the top arms in the league overall.

“Over the course of the last three years, no matter how you cut it – and we can call them aces, we can call them No. 1s, etc. – no matter how you cut it, Marco Gonzales has been one of the top 20 pitchers in Major League Baseball,” Dipoto said. “And it’s a 30-team league, so if you do the math … he is top five in pure wins, top 15 or so in (Wins Above Replacement) value, he pitches innings, he gives you a chance every day.”

The Mariners had a six-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday in San Francisco against the Giants. Gonzales picked up two wins during that stretch – a complete game with four hits, a walk and eight strikeouts against the Angels on Aug. 31, then seven innings against the Rangers where he struck out seven while allowing four hits and walking none on Sept. 7.

“What he presents as a competitor is such an encouraging thing to his teammates and oftentimes when we get on good streaks, it’s because Marco’s energy really kind of pushed it forward,” Dipoto said. “And I think that’s the case here with these last six or eight games. Marco got going and the rest of the team followed.”

Gonzales has always been a guy who pounds the zone and is seen as a “crafty lefty,” and he’s taken that a step further 2020. He leads all of baseball in both walks per nine innings at 0.6 and strikeout to walk ratio at 11.5 as he has 46 strikeouts to only four walks, which Dipoto loves to see.

“As you guys know, that’s a drum that we beat fairly heavily is the idea of just dominating the strike zone and filling it up, and part of the reason Marco is a Mariner is because that’s something that’s always been in his DNA. But he’s taken it to a different level this year in just how dominant he’s been in the strike zone and I think that’s why you’re seeing such a peak season for him in other areas,” he said. “He is not giving the opponent a chance to get in good counts and it’s really hard to hit that way.”

The way Gonzales has pitched has not gone unnoticed to the rest of the team, and perhaps none more than fellow lefty starter Sheffield.

“It’s something I really do think has rubbed off on the rest of the pitching staff, particularly our young starting pitchers, and maybe the greatest example of that is what you’ve seen from Justus Sheffield over the course of these last four or five weeks,” Dipoto said. “Whether it was Marco or Taijuan Walker before him, Kendall Graveman, the leadership on the pitching staff has been terrific this year and Justus Sheffield, whose biggest roadblock or hump to get over as a big leaguer, was going to be his ability to consistently command the ball and dominate counts. He’s doing that. He’s getting ahead of hitters, he’s using his pitches and I think he can look to the veteran leadership in the rotation as a thanks for that.”

Listen to the entire interview with Dipoto at this link or in the player below starting at the 26:18 mark.

Follow Danny O’Neil and Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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