NEW YORK — Facing the team with the best record in the National League that just so happened to be starting its ace and future Hall of Famer seemed, on paper, like the last matchup the Mariners needed after a deflating homestand and cross-country trip.
Yet, huge moments from their longtime pitching leader, their best reliever and their best hitter helped Seattle overcome Max Scherzer and the Mets in a tight 2-1 win at Citi Field on Friday night in the Mariners’ first game at this venue since it opened in 2009.
Gonzales labors, then dominates
A stat that summed up Gonzales’ outing: He needed 48 pitches to get his first six outs, then 48 to get his next 14. Despite giving up just one run, Gonzales looked like he was on track for a quick exit after the first two frames, yet he was able to navigate his way into the seventh via his vintage form: command on the corners and weak contact. Only eight of the balls in play against him were hard-hit, and of those, only two landed for hits.
Gonzales gave up just two hits after losing a 14-pitch battle with Jeff McNeil for a single that led off the second, and he came up just shy of going seven innings for the second time this season after Julio Rodríguez bobbled a ball on a catch attempt. On a night where Scherzer was in form, Gonzales went toe to toe with the three-time Cy Young Award winner.
“I guess I was just looking forward and trying to go as deep as I could into the game,” Gonzales said of how he settled. “I’m not really looking at what happened already. I’m just trying to go out and attack and get some quick outs because we had some traffic early. I threw a lot of pitches, especially after the McNeil at-bat. I just was like, ‘All right, just one pitch at a time.’”
Sewald’s motivating homecoming
It’s not just that Sewald was able to once again bail the Mariners out of a big jam — it’s also that he had extra motivation in doing so. Sewald was drafted by the Mets in 2012 and spent parts of four seasons with them from 2017-20, but he never found his footing and was tagged for a 5.50 ERA in 125 games with New York.
So, when he helped bail Gonzales out of a jam with runners on second and third in the seventh, then shut down the Mets in the eighth, he was particularly fired up.
“They gave up on me, and so it’s pretty nice to get a little revenge today,” Sewald said. “Most importantly, we got a win.”
Sewald struck out Starling Marte on a slider at the top of the zone to get out of the seventh, then retired Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso and Eduardo Escobar in order in the eighth. He had no doubts about manager Scott Servais sending him back out.
“That’s how we run our bullpen,” Sewald said. “I was more than prepared that I was going to go out there … I say I’m going out there until they tell me that I’m not.”
France comes up clutch — again
Of course, Gonzales and Sewald wouldn’t have looked as heroic without run support, and France broke through in a big way in the eighth. In a 1-1 count, France punched an outside slider from reliever Drew Smith down the right-field line for a single that scored Abraham Toro and proved to be the decisive run. He was helped out by Smith walking Toro and Adam Frazier to lead off the inning.
France, who ranks seventh in the Majors with 25 RBIs, is now 14-for-29 with runners in scoring position this year. His 10 go-ahead or game-tying hits in the eighth inning or later since the start of 2021 trails only Aaron Judge (12) and Gleyber Torres (10).
Friday’s sequence was classic France — looking for something to make contact on and not do too much.
“Those kinds of situations, they usually play me to pull and leave that side open,” France said. “He left a slider up and away, and I just put a good swing on it.”
He’s also cognizant of how critical Friday was after the Mariners had lost 12 of their past 15 games.
“Any time you start a road trip off with a win, it’s definitely a good way to start — especially the way we’ve been playing lately,” France said.