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Pooped or not, the Mariners have enough to shut out the Rays 1-0

Personally, I still think this team could use a giant dose of Jarred Kelenic. But then, I always think that.

Seattle Mariners v Tampa Bay Rays
You’re out, you can get off the bag now
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Generally, when a stone is weathered over time, it loses its edges and becomes less sharp. And so it was with La Piedra tonight. Like the rest of the Mariners pitching staff, Luis Castillo has looked tired recently, and he labored through his first several innings against the Rays. His four walks marked only the third time that the rotation has allowed more than three all year. The other two games? A Tommy Milone spot start and Robbie Ray’s lone, Tommy-John-surgery-inducing outing.

But the thing about the not-sharp version of Luis Castillo is that he still managed to rack up 17 whiffs and eight strikeouts. For every jam he got into, he worked his way out of it. And even if he has looked tired down the stretch here, he did what your rock is supposed to do and helped get the other guys some rest, stretching himself to 108 pitches so that he could cover six innings. To his credit, he looked better and better as the game went on, striking out his final two batters. And while he could have been much more efficient, the most important number for winning games is always runs, and by that metric, Luis left the game with a very shiny goose egg.

That goose egg was a good thing too since tonight’s offense was more opposed to scoring than an abstinence-only youth group. As a team, they only mustered five hits and had a few boners along the way. I’m not sure which was worse: Josh Rojas forgetting how many outs there were and getting doubled up on an infield fly or Jersey Mike forgetting how many timeouts he’d taken and striking out on a pitch-clock violation. Let’s just say it’d be a good idea to give the hitters a remedial math lesson during next year’s Spring Training.

In any event, they did push one run across, and the question was whether one would be enough. It hadn’t been against Tampa Bay since King Félix’s perfecto a decade ago.

And the task was only taller given that the Mariners’ bullpen has been worked harder than a ‘98 Civic. As Dipoto put it on the radio this morning, the bullpen is, and I quote, “pooped.” Yet they didn’t much look it tonight. I was initially surprised when the Mariners went to Isaiah Campbell in a one-run game, but it turns out that he’s been better than I’d realized. He rewarded their faith tonight with a dominant performance, striking out the side surrounding a weak ground ball that nutmegged Josh Rojas.

When Campbell was called up, I was excited to have a rec specs guy on the team but assumed he’d be shuttling between Seattle and Tacoma as the eighth man in the ‘pen. Two months later, I look up and he has massively exceeded those expectations: counting tonight, he’s pitched in 19 games and struck out 28.1% of batters while walking just 8.9% and managing his contact just fine. That K%-BB% ranks 66th out of 295 relievers who’ve thrown 20 innings this season. I guess that does sound like a guy who you’d give a high-leverage inning to, doesn’t it?

Brash came out for the eighth and looked better than he has in weeks, retiring the side in order, including this pantsing of Randy Arozarena. I present the Gospel of Matthew:

To close out the game, Scott Servais called on Andrés Muñoz for his third day in a row, the first time he’s done that this season. Despite winning AL Reliever of the Month for August, Muñoz has been divisive in the comments section lately. And it’s pitch charts like this that explain why:

One of those wayward sliders hit the first batter he faced, and the tension mounted. But when Luke Raley tried to move into scoring position, Cal Raleigh fired a bullet.

I’ve actually buried the lede here because that was Cal’s second caught runner tonight. Earlier in the game, he gunned down Josh Lowe, who had succeeded in his previous 22 stolen-base attempts in a row.

(I called out Rojas’s nutmeg earlier, so in fairness, I’ll point out how great of a tag that is.) This was Cal’s second two-CS night this week, and he also essentially tied for the Mariners’ hardest hit ball of the night. In a weak field, that’s enough to win him tonight’s Sun Hat Award.

Muñoz then walked his next batter, and the tension ramped back up again. But the thing that Moony’s pitch chart won’t tell you is that four of those pitches outside the zone generated whiffs, including both of the sliders that didn’t hit anybody.

I do understand where people are coming from in their frustration in watching him pitch. He’s not as dominant as he was last year, and he hasn’t really had his slider in a few weeks. Like I said earlier, the most important statistic in terms of winning games is runs, and Muñoz has allowed more than you want. But over Muñoz’s last 10 appearances, he’s struck out 15 with five walks and one hit batter. And “more runs than you want” is still only four. It’s not what you hope for in a closer, but it sure ain’t bad for a guy who’s struggling. So I won’t tell you not to be frustrated—I get it—but let us not forget the teachings of the Indigo Girls: darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear. The Mariners did shut out the Rays tonight and the team currently holds a playoff spot and is just half a game out of the division lead.