With today being the 11th game of the spring I had hoped the Mariners would honor Edgar Martínez and pay him homage with some timely hitting. Unfortunately, only Cal Raleigh and Cade Marlowe seemed interested in honoring #11 with run-scoring hits, but Mariners pitching prospect Bryce Miller made sure that any Mariners fan who tuned into this game had something cozy in their heart anyway—even if it wasn’t quite on the level of a franchise-altering double.
Luis Castillo pitched primarily off his sinker today, working in the low 90s per the gun in Peoria, with his slider hanging out between 82-84 mph. The Cubs touched him up for two runs in his first inning, with Nico Hoerner leading off the game with a solidly-stroked single into left. Eric Hosmer then snuck a ball past Ty France for a run-scoring double. Christopher Morel would later bring home Hosmer on another solid single into left, giving the Cubs a 2-0 advantage. All three of the Cubs hits in the first inning came off the sinker/fastball. Castillo did strike out the side, getting Trey Mancini and Mike Tauchman chasing after slider and Patrick Wisdom weakly waving after a fastball, and despite the runs scoring, the Cubs batters made a lot of weak contact, seeming to struggle to square Castillo up.
Castillo had a calmer second inning of work, getting Tucker Barnhart to hit a tapper off the end of the bat (fielded well by third baseman Sam Haggerty), punching out Brennan Davis looking at 94 mph, his hardest-thrown ball of the day to that point, before accidentally bonking Pete Crow-Armstrong with 92 mph in the, as Dave Sims would say, but-tock. PCA would then go on to swipe second base, but Castillo got Hoerner to tap out harmlessly to end the inning.
Castillo would go on to get one more out in the third, also leaving an inherited runner for young Juan Then to contend with. Then was able to strike out Wisdom swinging and then got a grounder to third that Haggerty bobbled. Nicely, however, Then induced the exact same batted ball off the bat of Mike Tauchman, and this time Haggerty was able to make the play to end the inning. We love it when things work out!
The Cubs batters then had to contend with Bryce Miller for three innings, which looked like a real bad time for them. In his first inning, Miller got up to 98 on the gun at Peoria and elicited some ugly half-swings on his slider, which has a very similar movement profile to his fastball, both with heavy sink. He did give up a couple of leadoff hits, one on a ground ball that wouldn’t have been a hit in the shift era, and in his second inning of work, Trey Mancini ambushed a first-pitch fastball to pop a single into left field. Miller recovered each time, though; the first time, he struck out Brennan Davis looking on a nasty sinking fastball at 98 before getting a pair of easy flyouts, and the second time, he handled a hot shot comebacker off the bat of Hosmer—on a pitch that came in at 96—for an easy double play before striking out Patrick Wisdom on 97 mph. Miller has been praised for his calm demeanor and unflappability on the mound, and that was definitely on display today.
Miller decided he liked striking out Cubs batters so much he did it twice more in his third inning of work, getting Morel and Tauchman at 97 and 96 swinging, respectively; Tucker Barnhart wisely decided to swing at the first pitch instead of waiting for Miller to strike him out and flew out to end the inning.
Here’s a thread of all of Miller’s strikeouts on the day. I would recommend watching them, because they were probably the most interesting thing about this game from a Mariners fan perspective:
Here are all of Bryce Miller's strikeouts from today, for your enjoyment (as they certainly were not enjoyed by the Cubs batters): pic.twitter.com/0FKmmJjD0V— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 6, 2023
The Cubs came equipped with some tough pitching of their own, though. Like Castillo, Hayden Wesneski is primarily a fastball-slider-sinker pitcher; today he was throwing much harder than Castillo, dialing it up to the mid-90s, but Ty France got to a 92 mph fastball and poked it into left field for a double. Wesneski was able to bust out his elite hard slider, however, baffling Mariners batters with it and eliciting some ugly half swings. Cal Raleigh was baffled on 90 mph slider, but then came back and punched one into left field—an inning-ending flyout but a good adjustment, nonetheless.
Raleigh’s adjustment continued in the third. Ty France worked very hard to get himself to third base, scalding a comebacker off Wesneski, who then threw low to first; alertly, France scrambled to second, looking more like he was playing a game in late September than early March. Tucker Barnhart then threw into center field on a pickoff attempt of the newly-minted speed threat Ty France, and France hustled on to third. Cal Raleigh then said “no need for all this risk, Ty,” and smoked a double into the gap, getting the Mariners on the board and earning himself a huge ovation from the crowd in Peoria, who cheer every time Cal Raleigh appears on the field for any reason. That’s what being a drought-buster will do.
That and a Cade Marlowe home run were all the offense the Mariners would be able to come up with on the day. Marlowe’s homer came after a couple misplays in the field fighting the Arizona sun. Visibly annoyed with himself, Marlowe took out his anger on Tyler Duffey, who made the mistake of throwing a ticked-off Marlowe a ball anywhere in the vicinity of the plate.
Unfortunately that’s as close as the Mariners would be able to get today, with Justin Topa giving up a run thanks to the aforementioned Marlowe Mistakes and Tayler Saucedo, who was fighting his command today, giving up a a few more runs on top of that. Despite the hard contact, Topa’s stuff looked pretty nasty, with his fastball hanging out around 96 and a slider that looked like he could put all over the zone.
As a reminder, tomorrow is an off day for the Mariners; they’ll be back in action on Wednesday in an evening game with the Dodgers, which will be shown on MLB TV if you have it.