A matchup with the lowly Athletics was just what Luis Castillo needed, as he records his 1,000th career strikeout in a sublime performance.
Things haven’t been going too well of late for Luis Castillo. Entering Monday night he had produced a 6.35 ERA in three starts during May, all of which had ended in losses for the Mariners.
Castillo’s last start was his most demoralizing yet, as the Red Sox won 9-4. In one of the worst outings of his career, he allowed three home runs and seven runs – both his most ever in a Mariners uniform.
As such, the opportunity to play the Athletics came at just the right time. And Castillo took advantage of said opportunity, looking more like his usual self in a dominating performance.
Luis Castillo on point from the word go
The two-time All-Star pitched six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and a couple of walks on the night. He also had an impressive 22 swings-and-misses on the way to eight strikeouts, including the 1,000th of his career in the fifth inning.
One of the most important aspects of Castillo’s outing, was an increase in his velocity which had decreased this season. But on Monday night he averaged 97.6 mph on his fastball, which at one point got as high as 99.2 mph.
Castillo came out firing, getting ahead in the count versus the first 10 batters he faced. He finally threw a first-pitch ball to lead off the fourth inning.
The work the righty had done with pitching coach Pete Woodworth since his previous outing was evident. This included focusing on his location, although it remains to be seen how much of Monday’s performance was influenced by facing the hapless A’s.
For one game at least however, Castillo looked as good as ever. Speaking about his pitcher, Mariners manager Scott Servais said:
“The last couple of times out, it’s been a little bit of a struggle for (Castillo), but tonight he was super-aggressive. All of his pitches were working and locating much better, and (he got) ahead in the count all night long. So a great outing by him. I was hoping to maybe get seven innings out of him, but I will take six zeros up there any time.”
Servais also alluded to the work Castillo had done with Woodworth on his location. He said:
“(Castillo) had been mid-thigh with too many of his pitches the last couple of times out, and that’s what gets him in trouble. He’s really, really good, but I don’t care how good you are or how good your stuff is, if you live in that middle area of the strike zone you’re going to get hit. He’s got to stay out of there and he did tonight.”
As for Castillo himself, he talked to the media about reaching 1,000 strikeouts. Speaking through his interpreter, he said:
“That’s a lot, you know. Six years here in the big leagues, and hopefully God gives me the health to get 1,000 more. It wasn’t a big reaction from me, but I saw the fans give me the ovation. I just want to thank them for standing up and cheering for me when it happened. It was a special moment.”
Jarred Kelenic keeps on hitting
On the subject of special, Jarred Kelenic continued his breakout season on offense. He got things going with his 10th homer of the season, to give the Mariners an early 2-0 lead in the first.
Kelenic’s 10th home run came in his 45th game of the year. For context, he is the youngest Mariners to reach double-digit homers so quickly since Alex Rodriguez achieved the feat in 31 games during 1999.
In all, Kelenic had three hits and three RBI on the night, to go with a walk and two runs of his own. As of Tuesday morning, he leads the Mariners in home runs, hits, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.
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Another player who got three hits on the night was Julio Rodriguez. And to say he needed a performance like this is stating the obvious, but makes it no less true.
Entering the night, Rodriguez’s batting average was sitting at a season-low .204. His three-hit night versus Oakland — which included an RBI — saw his average jump to .216.
Yes there’s still plenty of work for the 2022 AL Rookie of the Year to do to return to his previous form. You have to start somewhere however, and fans will be hoping Monday night boosts his confidence to produce more consistently.
In reality, the Mariners as a whole needed the Athletics. They have underachieved up to this point of the campaign; sitting around the .500 mark is simply not good enough.
In all, Seattle had 13 hits on the night, with Ty France and Eugenio Suarez getting a couple each. Seattle improved to 23-24 as a result of the 11-2 win, still sitting five games out of a wild card spot.
Servais knows important the victory was, but needs to see more of the same. He said:
“It was great to see tonight, but it’s just a start. You have to go out tomorrow night and do it again. Then the next night and do it again.”
Marco Gonzales will take the ball on Tuesday night, looking to bounce back from allowing eight hits and eight earned runs in just 1.2 innings versus Boston. While there are no guarantees, facing Oakland should see him pitch much better.
Will Monday’s win represent the start of a turnaround for Luis Castillo and the Mariners? Or do you still have concerns about how this season is going to play out? Let us know in the comments section below.