SEATTLE — Maybe all Mariners starter Marco Gonzales needed was a lead.
The left-hander struggled early, then completely turned things around after Austin Nola’s three-run homer put Seattle ahead and the Mariners went on to 7-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday night at T-Mobile Park.
“After Austin Nola’s home run I had a big boost of confidence,” said Gonzales, who allowed two runs in seven innings . “I thought, ‘New game and let’s try to hold them right there.’ “
It certainly looked bleak early for Gonzales.
He was down 2-0 with one out in the top of the second inning with the bases loaded.
Having allowed hits to six of the first 10 hitters he had faced, it looked as if he could be headed for an early exit.
But he struck out Danny Santana, then got Elvis Andrus to line out to right field on the 12th pitch of the at-bat to escape further damage.
“The key to the game was the second inning,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “Marco’s got the bases loaded with no outs and he held them to one run, which was really key. He was able to shut it off and give us a chance and after that he got on a nice roll.”
Servais said Gonzales finally getting Andrus out after the prolonged at-bat was the biggest moment.
“He kept fouling it off, everything he threw at him,” Servais said. “Luckily, we got him to hit the ball right at somebody. … It was vintage Marco. He found a way.”
Said Gonzales about that at-bat: “He’s such a polished hitter. To come out on top of that one was a big relief. I was just making stuff up. I didn’t know what he was doing, and I don’t know if he knew what I was doing. But it was a good battle.”
Nola inflicted some big-time damage on Texas in the bottom of the second. With runners on first and second with two outs, he lined the first pitch he saw just over the left-field fence, giving the Mariners and Gonzales a 3-2 lead.
Gonzales looked like a new man with the lead, retiring 13 consecutive hitters before a two-out single in the sixth inning. By then, he had a 6-2 lead — Mallex Smth hit a two-run single in the fourth inning and J.P. Crawford had a run-scoring single in the sixth — and the Mariners were well on their way to a victory.
Gonzales allowed the two runs on seven hits. He struck out four and walked none. He threw 111 pitches, with 81 of them being strikes.
It could have been even better had it not been for some bad luck in the first inning when Texas took a 1-0 lead with help from a fan wearing a Rangers jersey. The fan, among the 16,091 in attendance, took the third out away from Kyle Seager by getting his glove over the third baseman’s glove on a ball hit just into the stands. Given a reprieve, Hunter Pence hit a run-scoring single.
Still, Gonzales rebounded nicely from his worst start in seven weeks. He allowed six runs in six innings last week in a 9-2 defeat against Oakland, but before that had gone six consecutive starts without allowing more than three runs in any of them.
Meanwhile, it was a good night for the Mariners offense, which put up more than three runs for just the second time in nine games since the All-Star break, and Seager finished it off with a solo homer in the eighth.
Roenis Elias came in to get the final out with two runners on to earn his 12th save.
Texas had the first six hits of the game, but the Mariners outhit them 11-3 the rest of the way.
“That was nice to see,” Servais said of the offensive production. “We scored 10 runs in the first game of the homestand, and then we didn’t do a lot the past couple of days so it was nice to get them going.”