The Seattle Mariners will send out their hottest arm Friday night when they attempt to end a four-game losing streak as they oppose the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.
Early season sensation Logan Gilbert gets the call for the Mariners, who dropped a 4-3 decision in the series opener on Thursday.
A former first-round pick, Gilbert — who turned 25 Thursday — is pitching more like a cagey veteran than a hurler trying to find his way through his sophomore campaign in the majors.
After posting a 23-3 record in three years at Stetson University — the central Florida school that produced Cy Young Award winners Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber — the Mariners took the Winter Park, Fla., native with the 14th pick in 2018. He has delivered top-of-the-rotation offerings so far.
Gilbert (4-0, 0.64 ERA) made four starts in a dominating April, which included victories over reigning division champions Tampa Bay and the Chicago White Sox. That showing earned him the American League Pitcher of the Month Award for April.
Gilbert defeated the Rays in front of family and friends in St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 26, firing 5 2/3 scoreless innings and allowing two hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
In his latest start, opposite the Miami Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara, Gilbert outdueled the All-Star in an 8-4 win on Sunday, pitching 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
“It doesn’t get a whole lot better,” said Seattle manager Scott Servais, whose club is 5-0 in Gilbert’s starts. “That’s why he’s near the league leaders and I think he knew coming into the game today, he was going to have to pitch extremely well against Alcantara.”
In three career starts against the Rays, Gilbert is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. Tampa Bay has hit .207 against him.
The Rays benefited Thursday from the heroics from All-Star catcher Mike Zunino, who tormented his former team with a three-run homer in a four-run fourth inning.
Zunino socked his long ball off starter Robbie Ray to put Tampa Bay up 4-0, and the Mariners couldn’t erase the deficit while taking their eighth defeat in nine games.
The Rays were 3-13 in their past 16 games at Seattle before the one-run win but have now won three of four against the Mariners overall this season.
Zunino also came through in Oakland on Tuesday night when he delivered a game-tying two-run homer off the bench in the ninth inning and drove in another run with a 10th-inning single in a 10-7 win.
“I’m just trying to have good at-bats,” said Zunino, who now has three homers on the season but is batting just .143. “If I can get in the box and help the team in any way I can, it’s a plus.”
The defending AL East champion Rays have won four straight and have been triumphant in eight of their past 11 games.
“I think we’re just catching our stride. We’re playing our brand of baseball,” Zunino said.
Right-hander Matt Wisler (1-0, 1.50 ERA) will be the opener for Tampa Bay on Friday ahead of the expected bulk pitcher, right-hander Josh Fleming (2-3, 6.32).
In three career outings against Seattle, two of them starts, Fleming is 1-1 with a 4.73 ERA. Wisler has no decisions and a 6.40 ERA in six career games (one start) vs. the Mariners.
–Field Level Media