Mariners notes: Luis Castillo debuts in New York, Seattle splits weekend series with Angels

·9 min read
Mary Altaffer/AP

It was a highly-anticipated Mariners debut for Luis Castillo on Wednesday, acquired five days earlier in a blockbuster trade with the Reds. The All-Star ace, sent to Seattle for a package of four prospects, was set to take the bump in a rubber match with the Yankees.

But before Castillo could jog out to Yankee Stadium’s mound in the bottom of the first, Seattle’s headline acquisition had six runs of support.

Thanks to a trio of first-inning home runs off Yankees starter Gerrit Cole – including back-to-back shots from Eugenio Suarez and Carlos Santana – Seattle pounced for an early 6-0 lead. Castillo struck out eight anyway, lasting into the seventh inning for a five-hit, three-run performance.

“It’s always good going up there with so much (of) a cushion,” Castillo said through a translator. “I go up there with more of a plan, (and) I’m a little bit more relaxed when I get up there.”

Castillo gave up a two-run homer to New York’s Kyle Higashioka in the seventh, perhaps damaging the box score on what was an otherwise stellar day in his Mariners debut. After the 29-year-old surrendered a run in the second, Castillo posted a perfect third inning, featuring swinging strikeouts to Yankees sluggers Anthony Rizzo and Matt Carpenter.

In the fourth, Castillo fanned another pair in a consecutive clean inning. In the fifth, he faced the minimum again. Until Carpenter walked with an out in the sixth, Castillo had retired ten in a row.

On Tuesday, manager Scott Servais told Castillo his best friend on the team would soon become shortstop J.P. Crawford, and it wouldn’t take long for the newcomer to learn why.

When New York’s Aaron Hicks lined one of Castillo’s offerings near second base Wednesday, Crawford dove to his left to rob the Yankees outfielder of a leadoff single in the fifth inning.

“When J.P. made the diving stop… from the mound, (Castillo) looked at me like, ‘hey, you’re right,’” Servais said with a chuckle.

Castillo relied on a consistent mix of four pitches, offering mainly sinkers to a Yankee offense sporting the league’s best record. He generated five whiffs on his slider – the most by any of his pitches Wednesday – adding both a changeup and four-seam fastball averaging 98 mph throughout the appearance. His sinker, typically around 97 mph, nearly touched triple-digits.

“There are a lot of guys that throw 98 (mph) in this league. It’s the movement,” Servais said, referring to Castillo’s sinker. “The ability to take that to both sides of the plate, so guys never get comfortable. And there’s a lot of experienced hitters [on the Yankees].

Josh Donaldson, I mean, he’s trying to guess where (Castillo’s) going, and you can never guess right, because Luis has so many weapons. And he uses them all.”

Servais called on Ryan Borucki to finish the seventh before Matt Festa and Paul Sewald tossed scoreless innings of relief to secure a 7-3 final. The win capped a crucial road series win for the Mariners, who’d lost three of four at Minute Maid Park the weekend before.

“I wasn’t the manager here during the vintage Felix Hernandez days,” Servais said. “But looking at Felix when he was coming through in his heyday, that’s what (Luis) reminded me of today. This guy’s a dude. He’s a number one-type starter. He wants the ball.”

When Castillo walked off the mound in the seventh after a successful Mariners debut, he spotted his parents and brothers among the crowd at Yankee Stadium, tipping his cap in acknowledgment.

“No matter where I play, they’re usually there,” Castillo said. “They were here today to support me.

“I’ve only been (with Seattle) for two days, but from what I can tell from these guys, they’re playing to win. So yeah, of course, I’m feeling that energy.”

Seattle received Thursday off and returned home to T-Mobile Park for a weekend series with the rival Angels, one that featured a Saturday split doubleheader.

Despite seven innings of stellar one-run ball from starter Robbie Ray on Friday night, the Mariners entered the ninth inning down 3-0. Down to their final out, Seattle rallied for three runs, capped by Ty France’s two-run single that pushed the game to extras.

“It says a lot about this team that we’re never out of it, even in the ninth inning when things look like they aren’t going our way,” Ray said. “We were still able to scrap.”

But the Angels posted a run in the tenth, and Seattle subsequently went down in order. Los Angeles held on, 4-3.

France evened the series with a two-run homer in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, the only runs necessary for Seattle’s 2-1 victory. Servais hoped for a rejuvenated offense for Game 2, only to lose, 7-1. Instead, Angels starter Reid Detmers held the Mariner offense to a single run across seven strong innings, and wouldn’t allow a baserunner until Sam Haggerty’s two-out single in the third.

“To be honest, I was hoping for a better nightcap,” manager Scott Servais said in his opening postgame remarks. “I will give a ton of credit -- I thought Detmers, their starter, was really good.”

Jesse Winker launched a grand slam in the third inning of Sunday’s series finale with the Angels, securing a series split with a 6-3 win. Marco Gonzales fanned seven and scattered three runs across six full innings, and a trio of Mariner relievers -- Andres Munoz, Penn Murfee, and Paul Sewald -- each posted a scoreless inning of relief.

Seattle is in a virtual tie with Tampa Bay (58-50) for the second and third AL wild card allocations. Both clubs hold a two-game cushion over Baltimore (56-52).

The Mariners and Rays trail Toronto (60-48) by a pair of games for the league’s top wild card allocation, which guarantees a three-game home series in the first round of the postseason.

TRADE DEADLINE ACQUISITIONS

Former Reds ace Luis Castillo was undoubtedly Seattle’s headline acquisition before the Aug. 2 trade deadline, but general manager Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners swung a pair of “under-the-radar” deals to bolster the roster ahead of a playoff push.

In the final hour before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. PT deadline, Seattle acquired infielder Jake Lamb from the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash considerations. He’s a Seattle native, and played college baseball for the University of Washington.

Minutes after, the team announced another deal – the Mariners were adding both southpaw Matthew Boyd and catcher Curt Casali from the San Francisco Giants, in exchange for prospects Michael Stryffeler (RHP) and Andy Thomas (C).

“We got the veteran backup catcher we were hoping to,” Dipoto told reporters Tuesday. “And frankly, (Casali) was our target from the very beginning. We got the guy we wanted.”

Lamb’s first Seattle at-bat resulted in a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning of Friday night’s near-comeback at T-Mobile Park.

“He’s doing a much better job of controlling the strike zone and really hunting his pitches,” Servais said. “He’s done some good things this year, and hopefully he can help us out.”

Dipoto and the Mariners had shown prior interest in Boyd, back when the Mercer Island native and Eastside Catholic alum began his big league career in both Toronto and Detroit. Both Boyd and Lamb grew up Mariners fans.

Said Dipoto: “We made it a priority today to acquire all the lifelong fans of the Mariners to try to be with us as we attempt to break the 20-year playoff drought.”

Casali joined the Triple-A Rainiers on Friday night to continue a rehab assignment for a right oblique strain. Boyd has yet to pitch in 2022 after undergoing forearm flexor tendon surgery – and is “a little bit farther away” from joining the Mariners – though both acquisitions from the Giants could return before the end of the regular season, per Servais.

“It was more quantity than quality, and if you wanted to buy at the high end, you were gonna pay,” Dipoto said, describing the trade market in its final hours. “We felt like we were at the time in our evolution that it was time to do that. And we did, and I know there were other teams that did something similar.”

SHORT HOPS

– Outfielder Jesse Winker’s 64 walks lead the American League.

– Starting pitcher George Kirby owns the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.36) through any pitcher’s first 15 career starts in MLB history, per Mariners PR.

Outfielder Mitch Haniger rejoined the Mariners for Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader, posting a 1-for-3 performance with a double and walk. It was the 31-year-old’s first major league game action since April 29.

Haniger appeared with both High-A Everett and Triple-A Tacoma in July and August as part of a rehab assignment for a right high ankle sprain.

“I was feeling a lot of energy all day today, really excited to get back out on the field and rejoin the team,” Haniger said Saturday night. “I’ve been itching to get back ever since I got hurt, and I’ve just (made) sure I’m feeling good, my body is ready to play every day, and (I’m) checking all of the boxes.”

– Kalen DeBoer, announced as the University of Washington’s latest head football coach last November, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch ahead of Monday’s game with the Yankees.

Will he take to the top of the mound – the full 60 ½ feet from home plate?

DeBoer asked reporters at Husky Stadium for their opinion. “What do you think? … All the way to the top?”

One reporter shouted: “Oh yeah!”

DeBoer’s response: “There’s only one way, right? Now that we’ve got that declared, I guess that’s where we’ve got to go.”

ON DECK

The Yankees visit T-Mobile Park for a three-game set that kicks off on Monday night. Jameson Taillon will start for New York, opposite Seattle’s Logan Gilbert.

Seattle (59-51) receives Thursday off and then departs for a three-series, nine-game road trip, all with divisional opponents. The Mariners first travel to Globe Life Field for a weekend set with the Rangers, which begins Friday.