Do you prefer comfortable blowout wins, or games that are close throughout that may or may not result in wins? Yesterday’s 8-0 drubbing of the Angels was deeply satisfying, but by the sixth inning or so, the energy in the ballpark had taken a noticeable dip, as many fans—wearing both red and teal—streamed towards the exits between innings. Today the Mariners eked out a win, 3-2, keeping it closer than one might hope against the Zombie Angels, with 31,250 fans in attendance—all of whom seemingly stayed until the last pitch was thrown (well, actually: the last throw. More on that later). It’s less comfortable, but it’s decidedly fun. The Mariners and Angels are now finished playing each other for the year: the Mariners take the season series, 8-5, with six of those wins coming in the last two series. But the Angels didn’t make today’s rubber game easy on the Mariners—or maybe it would be more accurate to say the Mariners didn’t make today’s game easy on themselves.
Bullpen days can be sneakily tough on offenses, and today the Mariners hitters seemed unable to settle into a rhythm against the endlessly-swinging door out in left field. Former Mariners Public Enemy Number One Andrew Wantz proved he can actually be an effective pitcher when not being instructed by his manager to headhunt, giving up just one hit in two scoreless innings of work—a single by J.P. Crawford that went nowhere after a fielder’s choice, popout, and soft flyout. He was even more efficient in the second inning, mowing down Mike Ford, Eugenio Suárez, and Dominic Canzone on a handful of pitches.
José Marte didn’t fare quite as well, having to once again face his personal nightmare in Julio Rodríguez, who hit an RBI double that scored Josh Rojas, on base despite J.P. Crawford’s best attempt to ground into a double play. Crawford avoided making any outs on the play, though, thanks to what was either some savvy base running and a boneheaded mistake by 2023 first-rounder Nolan Schanuel (if you’re a Mariners fan), or an uncalled violation of the rules around baserunning (if you’re an Angels fan). Nevertheless, that brought up Julio, who continued his September reign of terror against opposing pitchers:
However, the Mariners couldn’t add on after that, with Cal Raleigh popping out harmlessly despite working an advantageous 3-0 count and Teoscar Hernández chasing after the first pitch he saw to pop out.
After the Angels had gone ahead in the fourth, the Mariners were able to claw back in the fifth against José Suárez, who opened the frame by hitting Ty France. However, the next two hitters made outs, again pushing the Mariners to the brink of needing more two-out magic. That wasn’t going to come from Julio, who Phil Nevin opted to intentionally walk before swapping out the lesser Suárez for Jimmy Herget, who kept the Mariners’ bats quiet in Monday’s soul-crushing loss. Maybe Nevin forgot that Cal Raleigh is a switch-hitter, though? Batting lefty, Raleigh reached down and poked a curveball into right field to score the game-tying run.
Credit to Ty France, who has made a lot of outs at the plate lately, but put a good slide down here in order to score the tying run.
But that still put the Mariners in need of at least one run to win the game, and that would come from Teoscar Hernández, who extended his league-leading on-base streak to 28 with this scalded single:
Who scored on that play? Oh, it’s Julio, the player Nevin intentionally walked. F around, find out, etc. Teo’s on-base streak is now the longest for a Mariner since Robinson Canó’s 34-game heater to start off the 2016 season.
That’s all the Mariners would get offensively, though, going down quietly against the remaining Angels relievers, including the flamethrowing Ben Joyce and lefty-killer Aaron Loup. Thankfully, Castillo and the rest of the pitching staff was able to make that narrow lead hold up.
Luis Castillo didn’t have his best stuff today and still racked up 15 whiffs—currently the most of any of today’s starters—with eight strikeouts. He gave up just two runs, one on a mistake pitch to Brett Phillips the light-hitting lefty was able to yank over the left field wall for a solo homer, and one on an RBI double to Brandon Drury that maybe isn’t an RBI with a better play in left by Dominic Canzone. That double drove in Zach Neto, whose stance and enormous leg kick I detest, who had squibbed a little grounder past Eugenio to reach. That inning could have gotten away from Castillo, but the Mariners made a smart-but-risky early challenge to challenge that Eduardo Escobar was out at first after hitting a slow roller to Josh Rojas, who made a strong play on the ball:
Things wouldn’t go entirely smoothly after that, with Castillo walking Matt Thaiss after throwing him four straight changeups—the first of three walks on Castillo’s slate today—but he rebounded to get Jordyn Adams looking at a 96 mph fastball for one of his three strikeouts on the day.
Those three walks are, if you’re nitpicking, part of the only real blemish on Castillo’s day: some pitch inefficiency that saw him go six instead of seven innings, reaching the century mark with his pitch count in the sixth. He’d collect two more strikeouts but also walk another hitter in the fifth, and strike out the side in the sixth but also have one more walk. The real killer to Castillo’s pitch count, though, was all the foul balls: 21 of them, with 18 of those on either the fastball or sinker. But as Castillo himself pointed out in the postgame presser, sometimes that’s a challenge of playing against a team that’s in swing mode because they don’t have anything else to play for.
Things got dicey after Castillo left when Justin Topa, who has been somewhat of a tarnished gem lately, allowed the first two runners to reach despite facing the bottom of the Angels order: Jordyn Adams ambushed a first-pitch cutter for a single, and then Phillips took a four-pitch walk before Kyren Paris, who in a just world is torturing the Tacoma Rainiers pitching staff in Salt Lake, struck out, despite trying to bunt in an 0-2 count. Topa worked his way out of the jam, though, growing wise to the double-steal attempt the Angels were going to pull (with some help from Manny Acta, who Servais credited postgame with sniffing out the Angels’ plan) and cutting down Adams trying to take third easily, and then recovered his groundball powers to get Nolan Schanuel and his Ohtani-inspired stance to ground out to J.P. Crawford. Crisis averted.
Matt Brash came on to work the eighth and also had to work around some traffic; he started by getting Neto to strike out on a slider but then walked Brandon Drury. Brash then fell behind Logan O’Hoppe 2-0, prompting both Geno and J.P. to run in immediately for a mound visit where I assume the message was “put the ball on the plate” and to his credit, Brash did, battling on the plate before getting Thaiss chasing after 99 mph. Eduardo Escobar managed to parachute a single off 98 into left field, but Brash went after Matt Thaiss, striking him out on a 99-mph heater Thaiss just couldn’t catch up with. Check off another Milestone Alert from the game preview: this strikeout was Brash’s 100th of the season, making him just the fifth Mariners reliever in club history to reach the century mark. Congrats Matty B!
Andrés Muñoz had the ninth and after striking out Jordyn Adams, allowed a sharp single to Brett Phillips, who I like but like, not today, Brett, please. The Angels then promptly lifted Kyren Paris for Randal Grichuk, who struck out chasing after a cool 101.5 mph from Muñoz, who was flashing some easy velocity today.
The Angels then chose poorly again on the basepaths, testing Cal Raleigh’s arm against Phillips’ legs.
Advantage: Raleigh. Game won: Mariners. Now for a well-deserved off-day before a sold-out series this weekend against the Dodgers.