Mariners sweep Rockies after stellar outing from Luis Castillo

Luis Castillo pitches a perfect game through six innings and Jarred Kelenic hits the vital RBI as Seattle Mariners win 1-0.

The Mariners already knew they had one of the very best starters in all of baseball with Luis Castillo. Regardless, he provided another reminder on Sunday afternoon at T-Mobile Park and this one was special.

Castillo was as good as he’s ever been since arriving in a trade from Cincinnati, in one of his best ever performances in the Majors. And the M’s needed it on a day when their offense reverted back to being frustratingly unreliable.

Flirting with perfection

The two-time All-Star was quite simply stunning versus the Rockies. In fact he was on course for a perfect game through six innings, before finally showing he is actually human.

In a tense seventh inning — tense given how close the game was — consecutive singles got two Rockies on base with no outs. Castillo was then able to recover and record two outs, but there were still runners on second and third base.

The Dominican Republic native held his nerve though, to record the final out in the bottom of the seventh. This prompted an enthusiastic celebration from the righty.

It also resulted in the end of Castillo’s day, arguably his best yet in a Mariners uniform. He quite rightly received a standing ovation as he left the mound.

Unsurprisingly, the 30-year-old’s outing prompted memories of the last time a Mariner pitched a perfect game. More specifically Felix Hernandez, on Aug. 15 back in 2012.

Castillo admitted himself after the game, that he had begun to have thoughts of pitching a perfect game. Speaking to the media through his interpreter, he said:

“It came into my mind around the fifth inning, when I looked up at the scoreboard and realized nobody had gotten on base. I remember going into the dugout and everyone was just quiet.”

A pitcher’s dream

It is a testament to the talent (and confidence) of Castillo, that he can even genuinely think about attaining the holy grail of achievements for a pitcher. He said:

“It would be a dream come true, because every starter goes out there and (tries to) give their best performance. Going out there and having no hits, a no-hitter, and then, you know, having a perfect game would be even better. I wouldn’t say it’s a goal of mine, but it’s a huge goal for any starter that goes up on the mound.”

Castillo has been everything you want from your top of the rotation guy so far this season. In four starts, he has a 0.73 ERA, 0.61 WHIP and 26/4 K/BB ratio, allowing no home runs in the process.

Mariners manager Scott Servais couldn’t help but rave about his staff ace’s latest performance. He said:

“What an awesome outing by Luis Castillo. Just total control of the ballgame … Luis has been fantastic, he’s off to a great start this year. I thought today’s the best stuff he’s had. The velocity of the fastball, the breaking ball was there, awesome changeup … He does have that kind of stuff every time he takes the mound.”

In terms of any comparison to the ‘King Felix’ era, this actually extended to a lack of run support on the day. After a four-game streak of five+ runs, the offense struggled to manufacture anything of significance on Sunday.

In fact, there was concern at certain points that Castillo’s outing could be wasted by the suddenly inept bats. Step forward Jarred Kelenic.

More Kelenic heroics

On the day, the Mariners struggled to hit the baseball. Even more infuriating, when considering they manufactured/were gifted five walks.

Before his heroics, Kelenic had already worked hard to put the Mariners in position to score in the fifth inning. After forcing a walk, he stole second base and then advanced to third on an error.

Unfortunately for the M’s, they were unable to take advantage. However, just an inning later Kelenic took matters into his own hands.

The 23-year-old hit a two-out RBI single, to finally score and give Seattle a 1-0 lead. As if to reinforce how much of a zone he is in right now, it came against left-handed pitching, which has been his Achilles heel.

In the process, Kelenic extended his career-best hitting streak to 10 games. He leads the Mariners in homers, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. (His 1.146 OPS is fourth in the Majors following Sunday’s games.)

The 2018 sixth overall draft pick broke down the crucial scoring at-bat after the game. He said:

“I got a good jump. I knew it would be slicing away from me and I just had to beat it to the spot. When those balls are tailing like that, you’ve got to outrun it. That was my mentality and I was just trying to save that run there.”

Kelenic helps Mariners bullpen come through

With scoring at a premium, it was up to the bullpen to pick up the slack once Castillo departed. And they passed with flying colors.

Justin Topa allowed just one hit in his inning, striking out one and giving up no walks in the process. Then Paul Sewald recorded his fourth save of the season, by striking out all three batters he faced.

Topa in particular was helped by that man Kelenic, in the bottom of the eighth. The outfielder made a sublime diving catch with two outs, which prevented the game-tying run.

Servais discussed the Kelenic factor afterwards with the media. He said:

“Another Jarred game. Those are good and have been happening more often recently … He got the big hit, but probably more importantly was the play he made in the eighth inning. You look up and off the bat I’m thinking that’s a double, (but) he was in the right spot. Our defensive alignments had him over towards the line, but he got a great jump and certainly finished the play with an awesome diving catch.”

In terms of the game – and the series in general – Servais gave a succinct summary. He said:

“Pitching and good defense – there’s no substitute for it. We saw it today … A nice sweep and we needed it. I thought we played really good baseball over the weekend.”

With the sweep as part of a four-game winning streak, the Mariners return to .500 at 8-8. Next up, is a three-game series versus a Milwaukee Brewers team viewed as one of the best in the Majors.

What is your main takeaway from the Mariners’ sweep of the Rockies? Moving forward, how many games do you predict they will take from a tough Brewers team? Let us know in the comments section below.

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