Mariners: Hernandez comes through on off-night for Castillo

Teoscar Hernandez continues his recent resurgence while Jarred Kelenic once again thrives for the Mariners in 5-4 win over Cardinals.

If there has been one constant in the Mariners’ inconsistent start to the 2023 season, it’s been Luis Castillo. Given how much bad luck this ballclub has had historically, this is another way of saying he was due a below-par outing.

Fortunately for Seattle, Castillo’s version of a below-par outing is a decent one for the majority of pitchers. Throw in some more timely hitting by the offense, and the home side came through with a tense 5-4 win versus St. Louis.

With the victory, the Mariners clinched the series with a game to spare. They also looked more like their normal selves in terms of winning a one-run contest, as they moved to within a game of .500 at 10-11.

Kelenic the main man yet again

Castillo entered Saturday night with a stellar 0.73 ERA through four starts. This was good enough to rank second-best among all Major League starters.

As such, when the Cardinals took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, while unexpected, it seemed nothing to be concerned by. Even more so, when Jarred Kelenic tied the game with his fifth home run of the season in the second inning.

Mariners manager Scott Servais discussed the solo blast after the game with the media. He said:

“He could not do that a year ago. There’s no chance. That’s talking about the adjustments he’s made in his swing. A year ago that’s probably a rollover to first or second base. Staying inside (the sinker), staying through it, it was a sick swing. It takes a lot of work to be able to do that and you have to be very talented.”

Kelenic continues to be a sight to behold, as he has become the Mariners’ best bat. He leads the team in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.

Not a typical Castillo performance

Despite the early run support, Castillo continued to have his challenges. Back-to-back scoring doubles in the top of the third put St. Louis back in front, at 3-1.

The two-time All-Star only lasted 5.0 innings and needed 100 pitches to get there. The seven hits and three earned runs were season-highs, in his shortest start of the year.

Castillo acknowledged his outing wasn’t up to the standard he expected of himself. He said through his interpreter:

“It wasn’t one of the outings that I normally have throughout the season. I just kept on battling and battling.”

In this respect, Castillo did still manage eight strikeouts, while only walking two batters. However, it didn’t change the fact the Mariners trailed 3-1 when he was replaced on the mound.

Fortunately for Seattle and their fans, the offense stepped up in the bottom of the sixth. First of all, Cal Raleigh reached base with a one-out single.

Next up was Teoscar Hernandez, who has been on a tear similar to Kelenic of late. He proceeded to level the game at 3-3, with his team-tying fifth home run of the year.

When Seattle traded for Hernandez, he was seen as a much-needed bat for an inconsistent lineup. However, he started the 2023 season just 1-for-17, prompting some minor concern.

Since then however, the two-time Silver Slugger has been hitting .308. He is second on the team for slugging percentage and tied second with 13 RBI.

Servais talked about Hernandez returning to form. He said:

“He’s been swinging the bat good and he’s starting to see it. This guy’s got huge power. His home runs are not cheap. They’re not to the pull side and down the line. They’re to the biggest parts of the ballpark against some really tough pitchers. That’s what he’s capable of doing.”

The Mariners had Penn Murfee and Matt Brash to thank for keeping them in the game. Both pitched a clean inning following Castillo’s departure, with Brash’s especially welcome after his recent struggles.

Suarez steps up

In the bottom of the seventh, Seattle took their first lead of the game courtesy of Eugenio Suarez. A two-out single resulted in his team-leading 14th and 15th RBI of the season and a 5-3 lead.

Servais marveled at how Suarez repeatedly comes up clutch in tight moments. He said:

“Geno has been in this league for a while. He’s gotten big hits and big homers. He just doesn’t panic and try to do too much. He’s a great guy to have up in those spots.”

Castillo previously played with Suarez in Cincinnati, and credits his teammate for the influence he’s had on him. He said:

“The way I am, the way that no matter what’s going on, I still keep the same composure, I learned that from Geno. He was one of the guys that first helped me when I came up to the big leagues. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it – Geno is probably the best teammate that I will ever have.”

Mental fortitude the cornerstone of the Mariners

Hernandez praised the mentality of the team in never giving up, no matter the circumstances. He said:

“It’s huge, because we know the things that we can do. Even when we’re losing the game, we can come from behind and score two, three, four or five runs in just a blink of an eye and that gives us the confidence to keep going.”

Of course, with this being the Mariners, they often don’t make things easy for themselves. As such, a one-out solo homer in the top of the ninth pulled the Cardinals to within 5-4.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, Paul Sewald recovered from the home run to get the remaining two necessary outs. In the process, he recorded his sixth save of the season.

Servais made a point of complementing the bullpen, but there was little doubt what mattered most on the night. He said:

“Big hits. We talked about it coming into the series that we hadn’t gotten a whole lot recently, but we got some big ones tonight. … Nice game, great crowd and everyone in town is fired up (for the Kraken), but we’re pretty fired up too, playing a lot better here the last couple of days.”

Next up, the Mariners will look to sweep the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. Chris Flexen will take the mound, looking to improve on a his previous two outings.

With Kelenic and Hernandez both now producing more consistently, which bat needs to come alive next? Let us know in the comments section below.

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