December 3, 2022

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Led by youngsters, Mariners victorious in the Windy City

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CHICAGO — They don’t call it the Windy City for nothing. One night after playing in heavy rain, the Mariners had to tackle a different beast today: The wind.

“It was really blowing,” said Mariners pitcher Logan Gilbert. “There was actually one pitch where I kind of got off balance and felt like I was about to fall, it was pulling pretty hard.”

With winds starting at 29 mph, no fly ball was going to be routine. And Seattle figured that out the hard way in the fifth inning.

With two quick outs in the fifth, Gilbert was dealing. He had retired six consecutive batters and 11 of the last 12. But, the 24-year-old pitcher would run into some trouble, not by his own doing.

On three consecutive swings of the bat, the White Sox popped it up. The first one, off the bat of Adam Engel, went toward the left side of the infield. Third baseman Eugenio Suárez drifted toward shortstop, only to have the wind blow it all the way into foul territory, where it dropped for a strike. Three pitches later, Engel popped one up again, this time in fair territory between the mound and the plate. The ball hung in the air for what felt like an eternity (5.4 seconds), Gilbert, first baseman Ty France and catcher Cal Raleigh converging on it. But it eluded a backpedaling Raleigh and popped out of his mitt for an error, Engel sliding safely into second.

“Those guys are awesome out there,” said Gilbert of his fielders. “So, if something like that happens, it’s probably not their doing.”

The following at-bat, Jake Burger hit another popup, this time hanging in the air for 6.6 seconds. It deflected off J.P. Crawford’s glove and Engel scored from second.

“Obviously, there’ll be some ESPN blooper reels on that today,” said manager Scott Servais. “But you know, if you’re in the ballpark, you understood how hard it was to catch it, once they got up that high.”

Despite the tricky wind conditions, the Mariners avoided the sweep in Chicago, defeating the White Sox by a score of 5-1 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Today was all about the young bucks early on.

Jarred Kelenic, who has struggled early this season, got the scoring started in the second inning on a 114 mph, two-run shot. With that exit velocity, it is the hardest-hit home run by a lefty and ties for the fourth hardest hit overall this season.

“Last night, I was laying in my hotel room and I was looking at old videos [from] when I was in high school,” said Kelenic. “And I didn’t think about anything. I just got in the box. Today, my goal was to get in the box and just compete against the pitcher.”

In his first 17 plate appearances of the season, the 22-year-old had gone 1-for-15 with nine strikeouts and two walks.

“I thought his at-bats today were much better,” said Servais. “Just the ease in which he was going about taking pitches and just [being] tense free today. And when he does that, good things are gonna happen for him.”

Kelenic, however, wasn’t the only youngster to get things going. In his second start of the season, Gilbert was as advertised.

“He’s got some good spin rate,” White Sox starter Jimmy Lambert said of Gilbert. “He kind of works it back and forth and he’s a great pitcher. He executed today. Hopefully we get another chance at him in September.”

Besides the weird wind turbulence in the fifth, Gilbert’s outing was smooth sailing. He had everything cooking, going five strong innings, giving up just four hits and one unearned run and striking out four.

“Heck of a job by Logan,” said Servais. “Keeping his composure as they kept popping the ball up. He threw the ball really well and he was ahead in the count all day. It was great to see.”

Gilbert threw first pitch strikes to 11 of the 20 batters he faced.

“Every game I’m trying to win the 0-0, that’s the big thing this year,” Gilbert said.

Through two starts now, the second-year pitcher has allowed just seven hits, one earned run, one walk and 11 strikeouts. He also earned his first win of the year.

Now, the Mariners head to Seattle for their home opener.

“We are very much looking forward to going home and not having to play in the conditions that we’ve played in the last couple of days,” Servais said.

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