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Mariners LHP Marco Gonzales
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Mariners Takeaways: M’s hang with the champs, Marco finds his groove

Marco Gonzales allowed only three baserunners in seven innings of one-run ball. (Getty)

The Mariners didn’t get the “exclamation point” series sweep over the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers, but this young Seattle team did get a split in the two-game series and won three of five games on the homestand.

Mariners fall 1-0 to Dodgers in pitchers’ duel, settle for 2-game split

Seattle fell 1-0 to the Dodgers on Tuesday after an impressive 4-3 win over LA the night before, and now the Mariners head east for a big road trip that begins with four games on Boston against the surprising AL East-leading Red Sox.

Before we look ahead, let’s look at this most recent series and homestand.

Hanging with the champs

The Dodgers were the best team in baseball last year and may wind up being the best team again in 2021, so it says a lot that the Mariners were able to play to LA’s level for this two-game stretch after winning a series against the Houston Astros, who have dominated Seattle and the AL West for years.

“Overall, the homestand, I thought we played really good baseball,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after Tuesday’s game. “We go 3-2 (on the homestand) and we get beaten twice in 1-0 games by (Houston’s Zack Greinke) and (Julio) Urías today. We’re playing good baseball.”

Marco Gonzales, who started for the Mariners on Tuesday, likes what he’s seen of late from the ballclub.

“We had the defending champs in here and both games I thought we really stepped up and played great against these guys,” Gonzales said. “They’re a competitive team with a great lineup and top to bottom those guys can really swing it, so it was a good test.”

‘That’s Marco Gonzales’

Urías was sharp for the Dodgers, allowing just two baserunners in seven innings while striking out a career-high 11 batters. Urías’ outing was only a little better than Gonzales’, the Mariners’ No. 1 starter who had his best showing in four starts this year.

Gonzales had his struggles in his first two outings before allowing two runs over six innings against the Baltimore Orioles last week, and he followed that up with seven innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers. He had six strikeouts and allowed only three baserunners all game.

“That’s Marco Gonzales. That’s him right there,” Servais said. “His rhythm and his tempo in his delivery today was much more in sync. He was landing all of his pitches, he was commanding them all.  That’s why he’s our opening day starter. He was on top of his game today, no doubt … He had a game plan and he went in and executed it to a T. It doesn’t get any better against a good hitting lineup over there.”

Gonzales said after his first two starts that he had some timing cues in his windup that he wanted to improve on in order to have better control. That was the case on Tuesday, as he threw 66 of his 101 pitches for strikes and was regularly working ahead of batters with his fastball.

“Really just challenging guys,” Gonzales said. “That’s pretty much it.”

Stellar defense from Moore and Co.

Also lost in the shuffle of Tuesday’s loss was this stellar diving snag by second baseman Dylan Moore, which, at the time, saved a run in the third inning.

“You can’t forget about a couple of defensive plays behind (Gonzales),” Servais said. “That Dylan Moore again. Unbelievable catch on the line drive from Chris Taylor there.”

That came just one night after Moore made another diving snag, a game-saving catch at third base with two runners on with the M’s clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh inning.

Gonzales is impressed not just by Moore’s catches but by the defense as a whole to start the season.

“I’ve been impressed with these guys all year long,” he said. “Credit (first-base/infield coach) Perry Hill, ‘Bone,’ for getting these guys right. They’re really grinding out there every day and putting in the work and it’s showing. What you’re seeing right now is a testament to the work that they’re putting in.”

Rookie of the Year back in the fold

Gonzales’ stellar outing wasn’t the only notable Mariners storyline on Tuesday as 2020 American League Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis returned after missing the first 17 games of 2021 with a knee injury.

Batted second and playing center field, Lewis went 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout, but both he and his manager were happy with his performance at the plate.

“I thought Kyle actually played a really good game today,” Servais said. “He had a very good at-bat, walked the first time up, hit a couple balls and just missed them. He had good swings today, I thought his timing was good and he looked good in the outfield. I’m excited to have him back and I look forward to (him playing more) on the road trip.”

Lewis echoed his skipper’s comments.

“I was just trying to get good pitches to hit,” he said. “I thought I had a couple good swings and hit the ball hard, so I kind of did what I wanted to do.”

And as far as just being back on the field, Lewis called it “very special.”

“I never take it for granted being able to play,” he said. “Any time I’m able to run out there and put the uniform on is always special.”

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