Noelvi Marte spent August and September slashing .292/.397/.443 for Cincinnati’s High-A affiliate, good for a 138 wRC+. And I’m nothing but happy for him. The co-headliner in Seattle’s blockbuster trade-deadline deal for Luis Castillo can have a Hall of Fame career, and I’ll wish him nothing but the best. That’s because what Castillo gave me today was a gift I’ll treasure for the rest of my life: 7.1 innings of shutout baseball against one of the best hitting teams in the league to secure the Mariners’ first postseason victory since 2001.
To be fair, Castillo wasn’t exactly in a pressure cooker after what the Mariners’ hitters did to open the ball game. In his first-ever postseason plate appearance, Julio Rodríguez got hit with a two-seamer. We prepared to panic, but Julio seemed fine. With one out, Eugenio Suárez flipped a line drive down the right field line for an RBI double. Cal Raleigh, ever the drama queen, then worked a full count before yanking a Beef Boy Bomb over the right field fence to make the score 3-0 in the first inning.
After that, the game belonged to Luis Castillo. Staked to a three-run lead, he came out and averaged 100 mph on both his sinker and his four-seamer in the bottom of the first. I’m going to repeat that because it’s bananas. He averaged—averaged—100 mph on both—both— his sinker and his four-seamer. The nerds call that a Kobayashi Maru.
Castillo spent most of the game pitching to contact and letting the Mariners defense do its thing. Alejandro Kirk led off the second inning with a base hit, but it was quickly erased by a double play that Suárez made look easy despite getting the ball on an in-between hop. In the third, George Springer hit a laser into the gap, but Mitch Haniger took the perfect route to get to the ball in time to keep Springer to a single. Seeing as Bo Bichette followed that up with another base hit, Mitch’s play likely saved a run. By the time Castillo was through four innings, he’d only thrown 51 pitches, walking off the mound with all the confidence of Arthur Fonzarelli.
The Mariners continued to piece things together against an uncharacteristically wild Alek Manoah. Although he averages sliders just a quarter of the time, he bumped that up to 37% today, since he had no idea where his fastballs were going. Nowhere was this made more clear than the top of the fifth when broadcaster Dave Fleming began the inning by saying Manoah had settled in, and Manoah promptly throwing a ball on the other side of the batter’s box. Here are Manoah’s fastballs:
In that fifth inning, Manoah hit Julio for a second time (mercifully just a graze). Ty moved him to third, and Eugenio picked up an RBI fielder’s choice to make the score 4-0. The big righty would get pulled with two outs in the sixth when the Jays turned to southpaw Tim Mayza to retire the Mariners’ lefty stack of Kelenic-Frazier-Crawford over the sixth and seventh.
In the bottom of the seventh, Castillo finally got Vanna White to reveal three Ks on the board, and left the inning at 99 pitches. But La Piedra wasn’t done yet. Breathing the rarified air of the eighth inning, Castillo got Whit Merrifield to fly out harmlessly, and took Springer to 0-2 before hitting Springer on the hand, and ending his afternoon.
The Blue Jays fans booed Castillo as he came off the mound after hitting Springer, apparently having missed Manoah’s performance or unaware of the concept of irony (which would track, given that they’re Candian). The reaction in Mariner Nation couldn’t have been more different. Grant Bronsdon reports that Queen Anne Beer Hall gave a standing ovation, and Eric Sanford tells me that the crowd packed into T-Mobile Park went absolutely bonkers. Castillo’s final line: 7.1 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 5 K, 0 BB, 19 whiffs, his fastest pitch of the year (100.3), and 1 Sun Hat Award. This, this is why you trade Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo.
Andrés Muñoz got the next five outs, and, courtesy of zachleft, I think the best way to understand how that went is to take a peak into Blue Jays Reddit.
That 103 mph heater? It was the fastest postseason pitch in five years. This is how you get away with throwing something in the center of the strike zone.
Muñoz’s final line? 1.2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2K, 0 BB, 41% CSW. Every other arm remains fresh for tomorrow, which, by the way, is guaranteed not to be the Mariners’ last playoff game this year. This, this is why you trade Austin Nola, Dan Altavilla, Austin Adams, and Taylor Williams. (Ty France, Taylor Trammell, Luis Torrens, and Matt Brash are just throw-ins.)
Pitching, defense, and a Beef Boy Bomb: the Mariners won the Mariners way. And then they danced. Can anyone tell me this wasn’t worth the wait?