The Mariners rally from an early five-run deficit, to win the game and the series versus the ballclub with the best record in the Majors.
We might have just seen the Mariners season summarized perfectly in their past two series. They remain as inconsistent and unpredictable as ever.
One minute the Mariners are somehow beaten in a series which seemed impossible to lose, versus the lowly Nationals. Then, they follow this up by managing to come out on top in the rubber match against the team with the league’s best record.
Quite how Seattle was able to beat Tampa Bay on Sunday is as perplexing as it is impressive. Especially when you consider they had a poor outing from their staff ace and were at one point down five runs.
Not an All-Star caliber outing
As things stand, Luis Castillo will be the Mariners’ only representative at this year’s All Star Game in Seattle. Based on his outing versus the Rays however, it’s not warranted. (If anything, George Kirby more deserves to be playing in the Midsummer Classic.)
In truth, this has been an up-and-down season in general for Castillo, at least when you consider his talent level. In this respect, Sunday afternoon was certainly more of the ‘down’ variety.
The now three-time All-Star allowed a season-high eight hits. This resulted in six runs, including matching another season-high of five earned.
The barrage included four runs in the top of the third and the Mariners found themselves down and seemingly out at 6-1. However, if we’ve learned nothing else from the two previous seasons, they do have an excellent mental fortitude.
In this respect, Castillo deserves credit for overcoming his early struggles. He managed to recover and last six innings, retiring 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.
Tom Murphy knew how important it was for the 30-year-old to stay out there as long as possible. Speaking postgame, the catcher said:
“He came back out and gave us those three last innings. That (was) huge for us, to get to the back end of the bullpen and give us a chance.”
Overall, Castillo forced an impressive 19 swings-and-misses within his 95 pitches, on the way to six strikeouts. And for all his challenges on the day, he allowed no walks for just the fourth time in 17 starts this season.
The Dominican Republic native discussed his ability to recover from the disastrous start to his outing. Speaking through a translator, he said:
“Luckily for me, I was able to make those adjustments for the following (three) innings and we were able to have a good game. But the most important thing for me today, is that we were able to get that victory.”
A seemingly dire situation
As bad as things seemed at 6-1 down, the Mariners began their rally almost immediately, to put themselves within striking distance. Four runs of their own in the bottom of the third were almost as unexpected as they were necessary.
Prior to the four-run blitz, Eugenio Suarez had the only score of the game for Seattle with a solo blast an inning earlier. However, RBI doubles by Ty France and Jarred Kelenic pulled the home side to within 6-3 and gave them genuine belief.
Mike Ford followed this up with a single which brought home two more runs. As a result, the Mariners found themselves down by just one score after three.
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The scoring then calmed down considerably following the early flurry, as the pitching on both sides improved considerably. The Mariners weren’t done however.
Murphy finally tied the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth, with his fifth homer of the year. It was a good day for him overall, as he reached base in all four of his plate appearances thanks to two hits and a couple of walks.
Literally the winning hit
The moment of truth then came in the bottom of the seventh, after the Mariners had loaded the bases with two outs. Jose Caballero came to the plate and was subsequently hit by a pitch, leading to what would be the winning run.
While there was still time for the talented Rays to respond, the Seattle bullpen came through in fine fashion. The relievers combined to allow no hits, one walk and no runs in three innings, striking out four in the process.
Murphy gave his take on why the Mariners were able to rally and win the rubber match. He said:
“I saw a lot of Steady Eddy guys, to be honest with you. … I think the best thing you can do in this situation is remain level. I think that’s something we really did today, and it showed in the end that it pays off.”
Mariners manager Scott Servais knows how important the win was, especially for the offense. He said:
“For as much heat as our offense has taken here — and rightly so, (because) we have not produced — I just thought the way the guys responded today was awesome.”
Where do the Mariners go from here?
With the win, the Mariners improve to 40-42 and to within 5.0 games of a wild card spot. Clearly they still have a lot of work to do, in order to prove they can make a genuine playoff challenge.
Servais is well aware of this, one week before the All-Star break. He said:
“I talked to our guys earlier today. We’ve had teams that have limped into the break and we’ve had teams like last year’s team, that just took off going into the break.”
It will be easier said than done to get to the All-Star break on a winning run. Seattle’s two series are versus San Francisco and Houston, who both have 46-38 records as of Monday morning.
Regardless, Murphy remains hopeful. He said:
“Hopefully this win is something that propels us forward and continues to make us work and make us hungry.”
Until further notice, the Mariners will be perceived as a peripheral contender due to their inconsistent play. They do however remain unpredictable, i.e. capable of surprising teams, which maybe, just maybe, can work in their favor.
Does beating the team with the best record in the Majors give you confidence the Mariners will put together a genuine playoff challenge during the second half of the regular season? Or do you think they will continue to hover around the .500 mark for the rest of the 2023 campaign?Let us know in the comments section below.