Luis Castillo was fine.
Luis Castillo is a genuine ace and in his first three starts, he showed us why he was worth trading a hefty package of prospects. And Luis Castillo is still the guy who outpitched Gerrit Cole twice and then Shohei Ohtani. He just wasn’t that sharp today. As Ryan Rowland-Smith put it, Castillo simply never got settled. But he did collect multiple whiffs on each of his four pitches, totalling 13 swings-and-misses over just 86 pitches along with another 11 called strikes. And striking out five while walking just one over five innings pitched is not what you want when your ace faces the A’s, but it’s a good line! Castillo had plenty of moments where he looked the way you expected him to look.
The A’s hitters caught Castillo when he missed, as with four sinkers right down the pike. And to be sure, some of these balls were absolutely punished. But as you can see, the other pitches they got to were pretty good pitches. And when they did connect, the A’s balls had a way of finding grass today.
Still, nothing got out of the park, and Castillo even had a nifty pickoff of Sean Murphy at second base, proving that he really shouldn’t be walking up to “Blurred Lines” in the Year of Our Lord 2022. The A’s just stacked enough of their hits together to get three runs across against him even though during Castillo’s part of the game, Statcast gave the A’s just a .207 xBA. It’s not like I won’t be confident when Castillo takes on Cleveland on Saturday. It was fine.
The Mariners hitters were fine.
You want the Mariners to beat up on a team like the A’s. And they almost did. They hit eight (eight!) balls harder than 100 miles per hour. It’s just that where the A’s batted balls found grass, the Mariners batted balls found gloves. Take Carlos Santana, for example, who in three at-bats averaged a 104-mph exit velocity but had no hits to show for it.
Despite the Mariners being fortune’s fools today, several hitters found success. Mitch Haniger, for instance, continued to make his case for an extension, hitting his 12th home run in 23 games.
The Mariners also pushed two across in the seventh when Cal Raleigh had a pinch-hit RBI double, and then Julio flipped one into left to score Cal for his third hit of the day. Julio followed it up by stealing his 23rd base in a performance good enough to earn him today’s Sun Hat Award. But Julio was left at second base after Ty France struck out on a makeup call from home plate umpire Doug Eddings. Eddings was just one more obstacle the Mariners had today, who seemed to have the players’ strikezones set to shuffle.
But the fact that Mitch’s home run was a solo shot emblemized the Mariners problems today, as the BABIP dice kept coming up snake eyes with runners on base. The most painful part of the game was the eighth, when Santana finally reached base (though on a walk, go figure). Sam Haggerty pinch ran, and, like when a pop song suddenly introduces a horn section, you assumed it was about to get fun. And indeed, Haggerty stole both second base and third base with time to spare. But J.P. Crawford and Dylan Moore both made good contact that was unfortunately hit right at defenders, stranding Haggerty at third.
Cal Raleigh hit another double in the ninth, but was left there after a Julio liner found a glove and Ty France hit the ball on the ground, continuing a concerning trend.
The flip side of the Mariners going 2 for 12 with runners in scorping position, of course, is that they had 12 opportunities with runners in scoring position. That’s because the bats were fine.
This is fine.
Today’s game was undoubtedly a stinker, following up a tough loss yesterday. But the Mariners pitchers struck out nine and walked one, while the hitters struck out just six times and walked four times. The Mariners hit a home run, and the A’s didn’t. Seattle had 13 hard-hit balls to the A’s 10. It was a BABIP game, as some are.
Given the quality of opponents, everybody wanted this to be a 6-3 or even 7-2 road trip rather than the 5-4 one we got. But that’s a winning road trip, and I saw what I respectfully thought was a disproportionate amount of freaking out in the comments. 88-win teams will drop a series to the rebuilding A’s. And the Mariners continue to be on an 88-win pace.
Sometimes the room is on fire, and people are in denial. And if the Mariners had actually played badly lately, that might be the case. But if you can’t handle the occasional clown spurting you with seltzer, you shouldn’t go to the circus. I know that the Mariners being competitive is a new experience for a lot of folks, but baseball is a 162-game marathon. You can’t live and die on every pitch, every game, or every series. Better teams lose to worse ones a lot. Plenty of times, it really is fine.