The Mariners showed what they were made of on Wednesday afternoon, as Luis Castillo helped them beat the Yankees and clinch the three-game series in New York.
It’s amazing what a difference a couple of days can make to the mood of a ball club and their fan base. (And maybe even those who regularly write about the ball club in question.) The Mariners went from a team which had lost four of five games, to one which on Wednesday clinched their first series win at Yankee Stadium since 2016.
Making the series win particularly impressive, was the fact Seattle had been struggling for offense of late. Yet somehow, despite playing without their three best hitters (Julio Rodriguez, Ty France and Mitch Haniger) the bats actually responded in style.
Understandably, all eyes were on Luis Castillo entering Wednesday’s series finale. The Mariners gave up a king’s ransom to acquire him, so the pressure was on and maybe even intensified by having to face a potent Yankees team with the best record in the American League.
In the end, Castillo got a significant helping hand from a rejuvenated offense which scored six runs before he’d even stepped onto the mound for the first time. To say this was not expected against five-time All-Star Gerrit Cole, would be an understatement.
Eugenio Surez got the scoring going with a three-run homer, quickly followed by a solo shot from Carlos Santana. It was suddenly 4-0 and Cole had yet to record a single out.
The Mariners would add one more home run in the first inning, courtesy of a two-score blast from Jarred Kelenic. If ever a player needed this it was Kelenic, with it also representing his first hit since rejoining the ball club.
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Even with the padding of a six-run league though, this doesn’t take away from how well Castillo played in his Mariners debut. He was in a zone from the get go, as he only allowed three hits and one run in the first six innings.
The two-time All-Star was reminding people of a certain Felix Hernandez in his prime. His full array of pitches were on display and the Yankees had no answer.
It was hoped Castillo would go seven innings to help out a tired bullpen, and he came within one out of achieving just this. However, he then started to finally resemble a mere mortal, as he allowed a single and then a homer to pull the Yankees to within 7-3.
It was at this point manager Scott Servais decided to take Castillo out. His final stat line saw him pitch 6.2 innings, allow five hits, three earned runs and a trio of walks, while striking out eight batters.
The bullpen took over and did a stellar job, with Ryan Borucki, Matthew Festa and Paul Sewald combining to not allow a single hit, run, or walk. They continue to be one of the best bullpens in the Majors, tied for second with a 1.11 WHIP and third with a .214 batting average. (They are also ranked ninth in ERA, at 3.51.)
In many respects, the 7-3 win was a total team effort. Of course though, Castillo received the lion’s share of the attention.
This included from Servais. Speaking to the media afterwards, he said:
“I thought he was awesome. I couldn’t be any more excited about what he’s going to bring to our ball club. The stability of taking the ball every fifth day and the confidence, the stuff and pitching in this environment … he does not back off.”
As for Castillo himself, he already has a very good feel for the vibe within his new team. Speaking through an interpreter, he said:
“I’ve only been here two days, but what I could tell from these guys is that they’re playing to win. I’m feeling the energy as well.”
The fact Castillo’s first start for the Mariners was versus the Yankees added intrigue, given that the Bronx Bombers were heavily linked to him prior to his trade from Cincinnati. Asked if he was aware of the buzz, he said:
“In my mind, yes, because they were one of the teams that was very interested in me, but I’m here with the Mariners now, and I’ve just got to keep moving forward. And now I’m here to take this team as far as I can.”
The Mariners will be hoping this — at the very least — includes a first postseason qualification since 2001. There’s still plenty to do but, if nothing else, the early returns are extremely promising.
Aside from Castillo’s debut performance, what stood out for you most in the Mariners’ series versus the Yankees? Moving forward, how many wins do you predict they will have in the upcoming seven-game home stand? Let us know in the comments section below.
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