De Jong gives rotation a much-needed boost

De Jong gives rotation a much-needed boost

SEATTLE -- Chase De Jong won't soon be mistaken for Felix Hernandez. He's still looking for his first Major League win, for starters. But as the Mariners' starter on Saturday, he filled in admirably for the missing King, firing six innings of one-run ball in Seattle's 8-2 victory over Texas.

And for a Mariners rotation minus Hernandez, James Paxton and Drew Smyly, that was cause for celebration and a large sigh of relief in what has been a tough stretch of baseball and a run of bum luck on the injury front.

"Seeing Pax go down was the last thing we wanted to see," De Jong said following his strong outing. "After Felix goes down, Smyly after the WBC, those are our three horses. Yovani [Gallardo] has done an incredible job stepping up, [Ariel] Miranda has done a very nice job.

"So yeah, we're young, but we know our job is to win ballgames up here and that's what we need to do. The excuse of being young is not one that will last much longer. We need to go out there and pitch. And I know the group of guys we have to fill in the shoes of Paxton and Felix, I know we're capable of doing that and going out and competing well."

Dillon Overton will get the next crack, taking Paxton's place in Sunday's series finale. And the Mariners would be thrilled if he comes close to duplicating De Jong's outing, as the 23-ear-old allowed just four hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out three in a smooth 75-pitch performance that looked far better than his abbreviated 2 2/3 outing on Sunday when he gave up nine runs and six hits in Cleveland.

De Jong didn't get credit for the win since James Pazos came in to throw a scoreless top of the seventh before the Mariners broke open a 1-1 tie with seven runs in the bottom of that frame, but he did his job. And the confidence boost that came with that was evident.

"To be able to go out and help the team out, I didn't do that in my last outing and that's where I failed," De Jong said. "I find success in doing my job, covering my innings and not walking guys. Tonight I did my job. I went out there and competed and just tried to go as long as I could, as long as they'd let me, and it was a lot of fun to do.

"Pitching to contact, being aggressive, that's what I know I'm capable of doing. I know the front office and Scott and [pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.] have all the faith in the world in me and know I'm able to do that, but to finally put together a body of work like that in front of fans and everybody, it's very comforting to say, 'Look, I can get outs at this level.' That is very comforting."

Servais said he "couldn't ask for more" from the youngster who stepped into some big shoes on Hernandez bobblehead night.

"He's very slow-pulsed and never seems rattled," Servais said. "He knows who he is and doesn't try to do too much. He just tries to make pitches and when it's not quite there, you just keep moving ahead a pitch at a time. He's very mature for a 23-year-old kid."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.