What was the key for Marco Gonzales in the first Mariners gem of 2019?

Apr 3, 2019, 4:08 PM | Updated: 4:16 pm

Marco Gonzales, Mariners...

Mariners LHP Marco Gonzales pitched into the ninth inning of Tuesday's 2-1 win. (AP)


Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales was two outs away from being the first player in the major leagues to pitch a complete game this season, but was ultimately pulled from Seattle’s 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night after two hitters reached base in the ninth inning.

How serious can we take the Mariners’ exciting start to the season?

Even without Gonzales going the distance, it was Seattle’s best performance from a pitcher this season, as he allowed just one run on four hits and one walk.

What was the key to Gonzales’ night? Ryan Rowland-Smith, Mariners analyst for 710 ESPN Seattle and ROOT Sports, said the 27-year-old starter is showing more confidence in one particular pitch.

“That cut fastball of his,” Rowland-Smith said during an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Groz and Tom on Wednesday. “(It’s) a pitch that he started throwing again. Don’t forget, this is a pitch he used to throw back in the day and then he canned it, got to the big leagues without it, and got to the Seattle Mariners and couldn’t get two times through an order.

“Then 2018 rolls around and he’s throwing this pitch that he doesn’t know what it’s going to do, to be honest. And it’s so hard. People don’t understand, when you add a fourth pitch, especially a cut fastball, it’s not easy. Everyone just thinks, well, it’s automatic, I’ve got this new trick up my sleeve, I’m just going to start mowing people down. But this is something that he is throwing at a higher percentage this year, and last night it was on point on both sides of the plate.”

Rowland-Smith pointed out how important having an extra option can be for Gonzales, who isn’t a hard thrower and instead relies on finesse.

“That’s what gets these guys off that 88, 89 mph fastball right now. Just that alone: knowing when to throw it, in what counts, has been huge for him,” Rowland-Smith said of Gonzales’ cutter. “And you’re starting to see just that trust he has right now with all these pitches, and especially that pitch. I think there were times last year when he stayed away from it when he should’ve been throwing it more… so it’ll be fun to watch. If he can ride that out and trust it early in counts and late in counts, he’s going to be good.”

You can listen to Rowland-Smith’s full interview in the player embedded in this post or download it in podcast form at this link.

More from Ryan Rowland-Smith: Breaking down Félix’s 2019 debut

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What was the key for Marco Gonzales in the first Mariners gem of 2019?