POINT OF SCORE
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – By the unwritten and often interpretative standards that baseball players use when defining a starting pitcher as an "ace", Marco Gonzales is likely not to meet the high criteria.
It is a title reserved for the royalty of pitching.
But in terms of mentality and responsibility, Gonzales is the "ace" of the Mariners as his first starter and offered another reason why manager Scott Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto pushed him into that position.
With a bullpen heavily taxed by the start of an entry by Felix Hernandez the day before and a rookie who has never thrown a pitch in the big leagues game that served as a relief, Gonzales approached the mound knowing that his team needed and I expected to get at least six entries from him. When you throw at the top of the rotation, these are your obligations.
Gonzales gave the Mariners what they needed in a 6-3 victory over the Royals, giving the Mariners six innings of work, allowing three runs (two deserved) on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts. The Mariners improved to 11-2 while continuing their record.
"I thought he threw the ball really well," manager Scott Servais said. "He emptied the tank. "We were trying to get him a couple more outs in the seventh since they were limited in the bullpen tonight."
Gonzales knew what was expected of him.
"I think after (on Monday), I think I should go out and give my team what it needs," he said. "During the game, you're just trying to concentrate on the next inning and one after the other. I was lucky to go from the sixth to the seventh. "
Gonzales pushed his record to 4-0 in four starts. The last pitcher in Seattle to start 4-0 in four starts was Rick Honeycutt, who had 6-0 in six starts to start the 1980 season.
Do you mind a 4-0 record?
"Not much for me," he said. "I'm pretty team oriented, I love that we're hitting bats, I support the race, I think that's the story for the start of the season, it's quite comforting to take the mound when you know how our guys are swinging it."
As for the offense, yes, the Mariners extended their home run streak to 13 consecutive games with a dinger thanks to Jay Bruce's solo homer in left field in the first inning of Royals starter Jakob Junis. The seventh homer of Bruce's season was the Mariners' 33rd homer in 13 games, which is the highest in the American League. The 33 homers in 13 games are tied for the most in MLB history with the 2000 Cardinals.
"Home runs are fun," said Bruce. "I say it's the best 20 seconds in baseball because you literally can not get knocked out when you run the bases." But I do not think we're paying attention to the home run. It is not something that worries us. It's just the profile of some of our hitters. We're just trying to be consistent and get a good shot to hit. "
But tonight, with a steady breeze swirling around Kauffman Stadium, the Mariners did not hit their opponents in presentations with base runners and bombs. Bruce's home run was his only long ball of the night. Yes, you can still win a game despite not hitting several homers and scoring in two digits. Seattle showed some versatility in offense.
"We did not have to hit him," said Dee Gordon, who led the attack with three hits, two RBIs, one run scored and one stolen base. "We just try to be as versatile as possible."
KC responded with his first of three races out of Gonzales. Whit Merrifield extended his hitting streak, which dates back to last season, to 30 games with an initial three-pointer to the right and center. He scored easily on Adalberto Mondesi's single to tie the game with 1-1.
Seattle again took the lead in the third inning. Gordon started with his first of three hits in the night. He then used his speed to advance from first to third in Domingo Santana's single from the center. Few runners would have considered such an attempt, but a healthy Gordon never doubted. That aggressive game allowed him to score in the soft ball of Bruce to the second.
"I like to create careers for my boys and make it easier for them to work," he said. "There's no pain, my feet are healthy, they're not in pain, I just have to play baseball."
The Mariners gave the Royals a run in a third inning that will not be used for the end-of-season highlight reel. Billy Hamilton opened the door with a simple ball to left field. Santana saw the ball immediately, ran and then dropped it inexplicably. Hamilton, who was the fastest player in the field full of fast players, ran to second.
Two batters later and with one out, Mondesi drove a ball into deep center field. Mallex Smith had to backtrack quickly to make the catch and then fell back on the warning track. Hamilton was marking the second to advanced to the third, but then decided: why not go home too?
Smith took a long time to get up and recognize what was happening before throwing the ball to the court man. Hamilton ran around the third and came home long before the relief relay came home. The race was not won by Gonzales and tied the game 2-2.
"It was a good play," said Smith. "That guy is fast, it only took me a while to get up, I probably would have done the same."
The defensive errors of the Mariners, 18 errors and an error in MLB and an error in all but two games, have been overcome by the offensive throughout the season. But eventually these mistakes will cost them more than races and additional pitches for their pitchers.
The resurgent Gordon put the Mariners forever in the fourth inning, throwing a dirt ball across the right side, just out of reach of a diver Chris Owings to score Ryon Healy and Omar Narvaez to put the 4-2.
The Mariners added two more runs in the seventh inning. Healy scored Edwin Encarnacion with a sacrifice fly to the center and a simple producer of Dylan Moore.
Gordon continued his stellar game at the end of the game, saving at least one run in the eighth inning. With two outs and runners in the corners, he made a ridiculous catch by diving in a line that led down the middle of Owings' bat and finished the inning.
"Dee had a phenomenal game," Servais said. "He turned the bat very well and made three or four plays on the field."
Anthony Swarzak threw a ninth touchdown to score his second save of the season.