NEW YORK – Welcome to the Mariners and a playoff push, Luis.
It won’t always be like this in terms of run support, but you’ll get stellar defense nearly every time you make a start, your new teammates, well most of them, will prepare manically each day and they understand the idea of playing for each other.
Oh, and there’s a fan base and city back home ready to burst for meaningful baseball in the final two months of the season and wants postseason baseball as much as you and your new teammates.
On a sun-drenched Wednesday at the big ballpark in the Bronx, Luis Castillo offered an extended glimpse as to why the Mariners made him their primary focus during the trade deadline, giving up four prospects to acquire him from the Cincinnati Reds, and why he was the most coveted starting pitcher on the trade market.
The hard-throwing right-hander delivered a solid and at times spectacular start in his first game as a member of the Mariners, leading his new team to a 7-3 victory over the Yankees.
“I thought he was awesome,” manager Scott Servais said. “I couldn’t be any more excited about what he’s gonna bring to our ballclub, the stability of taking the ball every fifth day, the confidence, the stuff pitching in this environment … he does not back off.”
Playing without Julio Rodriguez and Ty France for the entirety of the three-game series, the Mariners shrugged off a lackluster loss Monday to take the next two games for their first series win at Yankee Stadium since 2016.
Castillo’s first outing brought a new layer of confidence to the Mariners, who have never been lacking in that quality even in their early-season struggles.
“Everyone knows what he brings to the table,” said shortstop J.P. Crawford. “We’ve just added another arm to the arsenal that we already have. We’re making a statement here. We came in here and we set a tone in this series. I think we’re only going to get hotter. We’ve got them at our place too, and that’s going to be electric as well.”
Castillo could feel the intensity surrounding his new team since arriving.
“I’ve only been here two days, but what I could tell from these guys is that they’re playing to win,” he said through interpreter Freddie Llanos. “I’m feeling that energy as well.”
The expected pitchers’ duel between Castillo and Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in the series finale never materialized. The Mariners provided Castillo with an unusual amount of run support, nearly putting the game out of reach before the first out was recorded.
Knowing Cole is most vulnerable in the first inning, the Mariners jumped all over him, scoring six runs before most of the crowd of 42,169 had even reached their seats.
“I couldn’t be prouder of group in how we showed up the last couple of games,” Servais said. “We really swung the bat. That was the key to this series. You have to put up big numbers up here in Yankee Stadium to beat this club, and we were able to do it. Jumping on Gerrit Cole early, that’s the key to beat the great pitchers in this league. You’ve got to get them before they settle in.”
Adam Frazier led off with a single, and Jesse Winker worked a walk to bring Eugenio Suarez to the plate. Having snapped a 16-game homerless streak – a span of 69 plate appearances – on Tuesday night, Suarez made it consecutive games with a homer, launching a first-pitch slider into the left-field seats for a 3-0 lead.
The yelling from the Mariners dugout could be heard in the stunned stadium as Suarez rounded the bases. They were still celebrating Suarez’s blast when Carlos Santana jumped on a 3-1 fastball, sending a line drive into the seats in right-center for back-to-back homers.
The Mariners had a 4-0 lead before Cole had recorded an out. When Crawford singled to left field to make it five hitters with no outs, the grumbles from Yankee fans in attendance grew in their intensity and decibel level.
When Cole struck out Kyle Lewis, he received the expected Bronx cheer. But that sarcastic cheering devolved into boos when Jarred Kelenic muscled a 2-2 changeup over the wall in right field for his first hit since being recalled and a 6-0 lead.
Kelenic’s blast had Yankees manager Aaron Boone readying a reliever for Cole. But the veteran right-hander retired Luis Torrens and Sam Haggerty to end the first-inning carnage.
To his credit, Cole didn’t allow another run and didn’t crush the Yankees bullpen. He reeled in the start, holding Seattle scoreless over the next five innings.
Castillo held the Yankees to just one run in the first six innings, flashing a riding four-seam fastball at 99 mph, a sinking two-seam fastball at 98 mph, a 90-mph changeup reminiscent of King Felix and a nasty slider.
“I wasn’t the manager here during the vintage Felix Hernandez days, but looking at Felix when he was coming through in his heyday – that’s what it reminded me of today,” Servais said. “This guy’s a dude. He’s a No. 1-type starter. He wants the ball. He wants the ball. He can go deep in games. He can do all those different things with the pitches you have and he’s a very good competitor.”
That first run allowed wasn’t completely earned. After issuing a walk to Andrew Benintendi to start the second inning, he came back to strike out Gleyber Torres and get Aaron Hicks to ground out to first base.
Castillo then appeared to have struck out Isiah Kiner-Falefa with a nasty 99-mph sinker at the bottom of the zone. However, old friend and everyone’s favorite umpire C.B. Bucknor froze on the pitch momentarily and called it a ball, much to the dismay of catcher Luis Torrens.
Kiner-Falefa, who had initially started moving to the dugout, thinking it was a strike, took advantage of the situation, bouncing a single up the middle to score Benintendi.
The Yankees pushed to add another run when Kiner-Falefa tried to score from first base on Kyle Higashioka’s double into the left field corner. But Crawford made a brilliant off-balance relay throw from the left field grass with the ball beating Kiner-Falefa by several steps for an easy out at home.
It was one of several outstanding plays made by Crawford, who looked like a Gold Glove performer in the field.
With the Mariners bullpen taxed and priding himself in being a workhorse, Castillo was intent on finishing the seventh, retiring the first two batters he faced. But Kiner-Falefa singled and Higashioka took advantage of a first-pitch hanging slider, hitting a two-run homer to left to end Castillo’s outing.
His final line: 6 2/3 innings, three runs allowed on five hits with three walks and eight strikeouts. He threw 109 pitches with 66 strikes, including 12 swings and misses.
“It’s just safe to say,” Crawford said, “he looks a lot better in blue than in red.”
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