Julio Rodriguez leads a potent offense and Luis Castillo pitches an excellent game, as the Mariners dominate the top team in the AL.
Going up against a team with the best record in the AL, the Mariners were going to need a herculean effort. This would include their best players stepping up their game, and that’s what transpired.
Julio Rodriguez played like the superstar he’s on course to be, while Luis Castillo lived up to his reputation as the staff ace. As a result, the Mariners emerged victorious 9-2 and improved their winning streak to eight games.
The Mariners now stand at 63-52, within 0.5 games of the Blue Jays for the final AL wild card spot. Adding more context, Toronto has played three more times and lost one more game compared to Seattle.
Mariners manager Scott Servais knows his team must keep riding the momentum. Speaking postgame he said:
“We need to keep it going. This is where we’re at. We’re on that streak. We need to run it as long as we can.”
The Mariners started rolling almost from the word go. Following a Eugenio Suarez single, Cal Raleigh hit a two-run bomb in the first inning for an early 2-0 advantage.
For Raleigh, it was his team-leading 20th home run of the 2023 campaign. It was also significant in that he became just the second catcher in club history with back-to-back seasons of 20 home runs. (Mike Zuninio is the other catcher.)
Big day at the office for Castillo
Meanwhile, Castillo was embarking on what would prove to be one of his best starts of the season. Especially when considering the quality of the opponent.
The three-time All-Star limited the Orioles to just two hits and a couple of walks on the day. He also struck out eight, as he threw 101 pitches and went 6.0 innings.
Castillo has faced criticism at times this season, with some claims he isn’t the staff ace he’s described to be. For what it’s worth however, he’s currently on course to set single-season personal bests in walk-rate and WHIP.
Most importantly though, the righty still believes in himself. Speaking through his translator postgame, he said:
“I’m a person that likes to just have a lot of confidence in what I do. I think today a lot of the confidence (was) behind those pitches that I was able to throw. You know, even when I was behind, I just had the same confidence and I was able to get the results that (I) had.”
Castillo’s only real blip was allowing a solo home run blast in the top of the fourth. This pulled the Orioles to within 2-1, but that was as close as the visitors would get.
This was because the Mariners blew the game right open in the bottom of the fourth, with five runs. After loading the bases, Jose Caballero hit a sacrifice fly RBI to make it 3-1.
Next, Josh Rojas hit a RBI single to extend the lead to 4-1. The hit was important for Rojas, representing his first one since his trade from Arizona.
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Superstar showing from J-Rod
This all set the stage for Rodriguez to show his superstar potential, and he delivered in style. His three-run homer made it 7-1 to the Mariners and it was all but game, set and match.
The Mariners weren’t finished however, with Ty France hitting a solo blast in the fifth, to make it 8-1. Rodriguez added a RBI double an inning later, to extend the lead to 9-1.
It was an important game for Rodriguez, with him returning to the leadoff spot in the lineup. J.P. Crawford was placed on the seven-day concussion injured list retroactive to August 10, due to Wednesday’s collision with teammate Suarez.
Servais know’s how vital Rodriguez is to the Mariners succeeding. He said:
“Julio was squaring up everything tonight. Certainly we’re different when he’s rolling, that’s obvious.”
The Orioles hit a token RBI single in the top of the ninth, to set the final scoreline of 9-2. With the win the Mariners improve to 25-10 since July 1, which is the best record in the Majors over this time.
Mariners hot or not?
Rodriguez had a different perspective, when asked about the Mariners’ hot streak. He said:
“I don’t think we’re hot. I just feel like we are playing the baseball that we all knew we could play and what we had in this team, because we have the talent. It just wasn’t happening, but now it’s happening. Everybody’s doing what they need to do.”
More specifically, the offense is now offering consistent support to one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. As Servais said:
“The number of guys contributing right now on a nightly basis, makes our lineup a little bit more daunting for the other club when they look at it.”
Of course, this is no time to rest on their laurels. There’s still plenty to do, if the Mariners are to make consecutive playoff appearances for just the second time in club history.
First things first, the Mariners will send George Kirby to the mound on Saturday night versus the Orioles, as they attempt to secure the series win. It should be an electric atmosphere, with Felix Hernandez being inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame.
Will you be attending Saturday night’s game for Hernandez’s induction? How confident are you that the Mariners will go on to win the Orioles series? Let us know in the comments section below.