Marco Gonzales showed what a steady, efficient and deliberate big league pitcher can do Thursday night, even without an overpowering fastball.
It’s something to aspire to for Rangers left-hander Taylor Hearn, who had plenty of time to watch and learn after an abbreviate big league debut.
Gonzales became the first pitcher to reach five wins this season and the Seattle Mariners chased Hearn in the first inning of his first game, beating Texas 14-2 with their highest run total of the season.
Gonzales matched his career high with nine strikeouts, allowed six hits and didn’t walk a batter in seven scoreless innings, another flawless start for the Mariners’ No. 1 pitcher. Seattle is 6-1 when Gonzales is on the mound this season, and the unassuming right-hander is the Mariners’ first pitcher to reach five wins before May.
He’s not a power pitcher and he doesn’t throw a lot of breaking balls, either, but he’s been rock steady during the Mariners’ surprisingly hot start.
“People my whole life have told me I don’t throw hard enough, so I’ll just continue to prove them wrong,” Gonzales said.
The biggest challenge for Gonzales (5-0) against the Rangers was staying warm while his teammates jumped to a 5-0 first-inning lead against Hearn (0-1), who was called up from Triple-A Nashville.
The left-hander walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, then issued two more walks to load the bases. Tim Beckham’s grounder to third brought in Seattle’s first run, and Ryon Healy drove a bases-clearing double into the left-field corner for a 4-0 lead.
Hearn issued his fourth walk, and then first baseman Logan Forsythe dropped a foul popup before Hearn allowed another single to load the bases again. Manager Chris Woodward pulled Hearn at that point after 39 pitches, his ERA at 108.00.
“It’s part of the game honestly,” Hearn said. “I think Nelson Mandela said it best. It’s one of his quotes that I love: ‘You either win, or you learn.’ So, that’s one thing that I’m taking away from this outing.”
Healy finished 3 for 5 with three RBIs and three runs. Beckham hit his sixth home run during a three-run seventh, and the Mariners ended a three-game skid with 14 hits a night after being held to two in a 1-0 shutout at San Diego.
The Rangers have lost four straight and find their pitching staff in disarray. Already down a starter due to injury and uncertain what the rotation will look like next week, Woodward was forced to use five relievers against the Mariners. Each gave up at least one hit.
ONE AND DONE
Japanese rookie LHP Yusei Kikuchi will be making a scheduled “abbreviated” appearance Friday for Seattle, likely pitching no more than an inning. The Mariners plan to have Kikuchi make these short starts a few times during his rookie season to combat a trend the team sees in other Japanese pitchers who have made the transition to the major leagues. In his native country, starters pitch just once a week and seem to tail off after a season or two when coming to the U.S.
“It’s just a way to allow him to pull back, kind of recharge the batteries a little bit, and keep an extended life on those batteries as the season goes on,” manager Scott Servais said.
Rangers: LHP Drew Smyly threw on the side before Thursday’s game and will get another session in Friday before the team decides if he’s ready to return from nerve pain in his throwing arm. Smyly could miss up to two games, but Woodward thinks he’ll be back sooner than expected. … 2B Rougned Odor made his second straight rehab start with Triple-A Nashville on Thursday night. He’s rehabilitating a right knee strain. … 3B Asdrubal Cabrera left the game after the first inning with tightness in his left calf.
Mariners: Jay Bruce (quad) sat out again after injuring his quad Monday. Servais said he could be back in a day or two.
Rangers: RHP Shelby Miller (1-1, 7.63) is looking for his second straight win during a shaky start to the season that’s included just 15 innings pitched in four starts with more than twice as many walks (13) as strikeouts (six).
Mariners: While Kikuchi (1-1, 4.68) will make the start, top prospect Justus Sheffield has been called up from Triple-A Tacoma to handle the bulk of the work. This is Sheffield’s first appearance for the Mariners since being acquired in a deal that sent pitcher James Paxton to the New York Yankees last year.
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