Winker smacks grand slam, Mariners win series finale over Angels, 6-3

You could see it on the faces of the Mariners fans filtering into T-Mobile Park on Sunday afternoon: pure, unadulterated joy, not a care in the world as they settled into their sun-soaked seats to watch Seattle’s series finale against the Los Angeles Angels. Fans pointed their fingers upward as the Blue Angels tore through the endless blue skies, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd.

It was a perfect Seattle summer day, the kind that makes the crummy days of last winter and spring feel like a distant memory. And the Mariners did their part to not spoil it, sending the 34,837 fans home with the same smiles they wore into the ballpark, perhaps even wider.

Seattle beat Los Angeles, 6-3, splitting the four-game series with the Angels. Left fielder Jesse Winker blew things open in the third inning, blasting a grand slam to right field, the third of his career. The crowd held its breath as the baseball sailed high into right field and stayed just fair, tucking inside the foul pole.

“I had a feeling it was going to stay fair,” Winker said. “I’ve had a few go foul. Actually, a lot go foul until this point. I had a good feeling about that.”

Winker, a left-hander, has enjoyed success against right-handed pitching in his career, but has been less successful against left-handers. His grand slam came against Angels’ left-handed starter Tucker Davidson.

“He gets on base,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “He walks as much as anybody in our league, he doesn’t chase. He’s done well against left-handed pitching this year, which is really something we were not expecting. He’s hung in there against the lefty’s, picked his spots, has hit a few homers against lefty’s. And good for him.”

Winker might have another title to add to his name: designated trash talker.

“The one thing about Wink is that he’s a talker,” Servais said. “He likes to get everyone going. And you need that on days like today. I talked to him before the game, like, ‘I need your energy today.’ Go ahead and talk smack, get everyone fired up. And he was. As soon as you give him the key, he takes it and runs with it. And then he backed it up with a big swing in the ball game, so good for him.”

Starting pitcher Marco Gonzales had a good outing, allowing eight hits and three runs over six innings of work, striking out seven Angels’ batters and walking just one. Gonzales, who mostly features a fastball, cutter and changeup, worked in more of his curveball on Sunday, throwing the pitch 27 percent of the time.

“I’ve just been aggressive early in the count, not backing off at all,” Gonzales said. “Trying to locate, execute early and give myself a chance to get ahead in the count. The sequencing worked today, I thought we had a good gameplan going in. I thought we threw some good curveballs. I thought that gave us a good depth, just something different than the fastball-cutter-changeup that I’m so used to throwing. The cutter was good today, too. I thought that just gave us some good avenues to make some pitches. Had some good life on the fastball, too.”

It sure is fun when there’s a playoff spot on the line, too. Sunday’s game may not have had the tension or drama of a playoff game, but it felt different than many August games of past; the fans were louder, more engaged. It’s clear that after so many years of futility, there’s actually something on the line this summer. Sunday’s atmosphere provided a glimpse of a fanbase starving for playoff baseball.

“You come back from a road trip, felt good about things with the Angels coming in,” Servais said. “We would’ve liked to do a little bit better than a split, but we needed to get the ballgame today and look forward to the upcoming series. Our guys need a good meal, good sleep and show up at the regular time tomorrow and get back into the routine. Those doubleheaders are hard for the guys who go all 18 innings and it’s hard on the pitching staff.”

Next up: Seattle (59-41, second AL West) welcomes the New York Yankees to town for a three-game series beginning Monday. The Mariners won two out of three against New York last week in The Bronx.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Marco Gonzales works against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)