Coming into today’s game, the Mariners had some things to prove. Not the “we have to prove ourselves to the world” type of mentality, but moreso a “we know we can do this” sort. Before today’s matchup, these three things had never happened:
- Luis Castillo had never beaten the Colorado Rockies. Since his debut in 2017, Castillo has faced the Rockies three times and in all three matchups he gave below sub-par performances. Across those starts, Castillo totaled an 11.30 ERA with the worst of it coming in 2021 when he was chased after just 3.2 innings of baseball with 10 hits and 8 earned runs to show for it.
- The Mariners have never swept the Colorado Rockies at home. Back in 2012 the M’s swept Colorado in a 3-game series in Denver but they’ve never accomplished the broom feat at home.
- The Mariners have not been at .500 this season. Sure, they were at 1.000 to start the season and subsequently .500 a day later, but they haven’t been at this mark in any real sense in 2023.
With rookie pitcher Noah Davis making his first big league start and the Rockies being the Rockies, this game seemed as good as any to check off the these three tasks. But we’re Mariners fans. We know these two facts don’t mean a thing when it comes to baseball in the Pacific Northwest.
A Pitcher’s Duel
If a stranger came up to you on the street before today’s game and said “one of the pitchers will complete 5 shutout innings and only give up 3 hits,” would you have believed him?
You should’ve. After all, Luis Castillo was pitching. Five innings of shutout pitching is nothing for him. Practically the bare minimum, just an appetizer, even.
But what if that stranger were to say that pitcher would be Noah Davis? The rookie hurler making his first ever big league start; the 25 year old from Newport Beach, CA taking in his first pitching appearance in the state of Washington since he was with the Spokane Indians?
You may or may not have believed this stranger, but if you did, I hope it would’ve been with the caveat that La Piedra did just as good, but more importantly, better.
And that he did.
Luis Castillo, K'ing the Side...and Patented Fist Pump K Strut. pic.twitter.com/Ig2dtE66EB— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 16, 2023
I can’t remember the last time I felt this safe watching a Mariners pitcher take the mound. Was it Felix in his prime? No, I think it was Edwin Diaz in his final year with us. But Felix was special in that he commanded the game for stretches at a time. We knew we’d have a quick 1-2-3 inning and be done. That’s how Castillo feels.
One accomplishment King Felix has that Castillo has yet to do is a p*rfect g*me. A perfect 27 straight outs of hitless, walkless, beanless baseball. On an overcast April afternoon, Luis Castillo almost did it. Almost.
Luis Castillo loses the perfect game and no-hitter on a 2-2 bloop single to left from Jurickson Profar to lead off the 7th inning.— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) April 16, 2023
While he didn’t get the perfecto the Baseball Gods™ were inching towards, Castillo still pitched 6 innings of miraculous baseball and I – who cannot throw a perfect strike across the plate without 100 warm up tosses and a promised trip to Home Goods – am thoroughly pleased with that. And to Lookout Landing writer Zach Gottschalk’s delight, a sigh of relief.
Overall, Castillo’s performance this afternoon came off a nice helping of his 4-seam fastball, a sampler of his sinker, and an identical drizzling amount of his changeup and sinker. All these pitches accounted for 9 delicious strikeouts, 4 of which came on a fastball, another 4 on the changeup and a bonus appearance from the sinker. As a treat.
With today’s outing, Castillo notches his first win against the Rockies and lowers his ERA on the season to a crumb-sized 0.73. An excellent day for our ace that continues to dazzle. Feels good, my dudes.
“I Owe Ya One” Plays
Every tight game has them and this one was no exception. Even though there are many plays that have the chance to alter the outcome of a game, these are the ones that undoubtedly are the plays that swayed the ship in our direction. Today those two plays came from the same guy: Jarred Kelenic.
While simple, the general rule in baseball is “you can’t win if you don’t score.” Over the years the Mariners have forgotten this and attempted the impossible (mostly during Felix starts), but today logic prevailed and our youngest Wisconsinite on the squad took charge.
For the 10th game in a row, young Jarred recorded a hit, this time making it on a game-decider, driving in Ty to break the...tie. Sure, we got a little assistance from the off line throw from right field and a fumbled catch at the plate. But a run is a run is a run and some days one is all you need.
And those games where one is all you need? Terrifying. Heart-stopping. Grueling.
Also: exhilarating. Exciting. Epic.
Without those one-run games, plays like this don’t carry as much weight. Sure, they’re jaw-dropping, seeing a human person throw their body towards the ground on purpose to catch a ball, but not as heavy. In today’s game, Jarred threw his body towards the ground in a big way and made the play to save the lead and ultimately the win. Without this catch, Colorado would’ve scored, having had Alan Trejo smack a double only a batter before. Instead, the Rockies recorded their 3rd out of the inning and again failed to plate a run.
Mini Wins Inside the Win
Today’s game was one of those Mariners games that tells us a lot, like that Julio Rodríguez is human and proved he, too, can hit GIDPs (despite my feelings about it).
We also learned that our Mariners are capable of wins that mean little to the larger baseball community, but are still feathers in our cap, like sweeping the Rockies at home and being at .500 for the first real time this year.
And whoever that Luis Castillo is that averaged an 11.30 ERA against the Rockies prior to coming to Seattle?
We don’t know him.