The Seattle Mariners will look to sweep their three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels Sunday afternoon in Anaheim, Calif., with left fielder Jesse Winker beginning to hit like the player the club thought it was getting when it traded for him in March.
Winker and third baseman Eugenio Suarez were traded from the Cincinnati Reds for prospects during spring training, with the Mariners expecting to get the Winker who hit .305 with 24 homers and a .950 OPS last season.
But he struggled early, and when the Mariners sat him on June 14, he was hitting .206 with four homers. In 11 games since getting that day off, though, Winker seems to have turned a corner. Including Saturday's 5-3 win over the Angels when he went 2 for 4 with a walk, he's hit .387 (12 for 31) with 11 walks, four extra-base hits and five multi-hit games.
"It's a new division for me, it's a new side of the country and it was just a chance to take a breather and take in a baseball game," Winker said. "It was good for me."
Mariners manager Scott Servais seems to agree that Winker just needed a day to clear his head.
"His confidence is coming back, he's not over-swinging," Servais said. "He feels really good. ... He knows if he just squares it up, it'll go."
Even during his struggles, Winker was still drawing walks -- he leads the American League with 48.
"You always have value if you're getting on base, and Jesse leads the league in walks," Servais said. "He does swing at the right pitches, but eventually you've got to start squaring some balls up. It's been a struggle for him to get back to who he is, and it's headed in the right direction right now."
Left-hander Marco Gonzales (4-7, 3.33 ERA) will be on the mound for Seattle to make his 15th start of the season. He's coming off a victory in his most recent start, when he gave up two runs and seven hits in seven innings last Tuesday in Oakland.
Gonzales is 9-2 with a 3.44 ERA in 18 career starts against the Angels. He also has nine wins against the Athletics, the most against any team.
While Gonzales has had success against the Angels, he hasn't been so fortunate facing Angels center fielder Mike Trout, who is hitting .371 (13 for 35) with three homers and three doubles against him.
Trout, though, has hit the Mariners well no matter who the pitcher is. His home run on Friday night was the 53rd of his career against them, passing Rafael Palmeiro for the most by any Mariners opponent. It was his 99th career extra-base hit against them, also passing Palmeiro for the record by opponents. He added No. 100 (a triple) later in Friday's game.
Trout has been so good against the Mariners that Servais decided to intentionally walk him in the eighth inning of a one-run game Friday, even though next up was defending AL MVP Shohei Ohtani.
"He gets walked in that situation with a righty (on the mound and Ohtani due up)," Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said. "It's just Trouty and how good he is."
In Saturday's game, Trout was intentionally walked in the ninth inning, his run representing the tying run. In both cases, the move worked out for the Mariners when Ohtani was retired.
On Sunday, left-hander Jose Suarez (0-2, 5.00) will start for Los Angeles. Against the Mariners, he is 3-1 with a 3.68 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts).
--Field Level Media