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Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Mariners bullpen ‘unbelievable’ in 18-inning loss to Astros

Oct. 15, 2022 Updated Sat., Oct. 15, 2022 at 10:17 p.m.

Seattle reliever Paul Sewald reacts during the 11th inning against the Houston Astros during Game 3 of the American League Division Series at T-Mobile Park on Saturday in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
Seattle reliever Paul Sewald reacts during the 11th inning against the Houston Astros during Game 3 of the American League Division Series at T-Mobile Park on Saturday in Seattle. (Getty Images)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – In the middle of the home clubhouse, Paul Sewald approached Andres Munoz and wrapped him in his arms.

“I’m so proud of you,” Sewald said.

Sewald and Munoz, two of the most important pitchers in the Mariners’ long-awaited return to the playoffs, were again at their best Saturday at T-Mobile Park, delivering one devastating pitch after another in a never-ending elimination game against the rival Houston Astros.

And they weren’t alone.

The Mariners exhausted their bullpen, in every way, trying to keep their season alive.

It’s difficult to imagine a more spectacular performance from a collection of Seattle pitchers at any point in franchise history, and it’s even more difficult to imagine a more crushing way for it to end.

Rookie George Kirby tossed seven scoreless innings in his first postseason start, and the eight Mariners relieved who followed kept Game 3 of the American League Division Series scoreless into the 18th inning.

Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners president of baseball operations and a former major league pitcher, said it was the best-pitched game, on both sides, that he had seen.

“The uniqueness tonight was how good George was – and then everyone who came after him,” Dipoto said.

It was, perhaps, a cruel twist that it was Penn Murfee who gave up a run. Murfee, pitching in his third consecutive inning, and matching his career high in innings pitched in a game, had helped the Mariners out of one of their biggest jams of the game when he was called out of the pen with one out in the 16th inning.

He got Yuli Gurriel to fly out to Julio Rodriguez in center field – on a tremendous sliding grab in the gap – and then induced a pop up from Aledmys Diaz to strand two runners and keep the score 0-0.

Murfee followed that with a clean 17th inning, and he returned to the mound to start the 18th.

He then caught too much of the plate with a 3-2 slider that Astros rookie Jeremy Pena sent 415 feet over the wall in left-center field.

It was a game in which neither team deserved to lose. But somebody had to, eventually.

The Mariners used every pitcher in their bullpen, even Robbie Ray at the end.

“Unbelievable,” manager Scott Servais said. “They all showed up today in a most critical game. I can’t ask any more of our guys and the heart that they showed.”

The final numbers for the 10 Seattle pitchers (Kirby, Munoz, Diego Castillo, Matt Brash, Sewald, Erik Swanson, Matt Festa, Matt Boyd, Murfee and Ray): 236 pitches, 1 run, 11 hits, 1 walk, 20 strikeouts.

Cal Raleigh caught every pitch in all 18 innings, and he revealed after the game that he’d been playing the final month of the season with a left thumb that is broken and has a torn ligament. He might need surgery this offseason.

The Mariners bullpen was one of the best in the majors during the regular season – and certainly one of the most dominant in the second half of the season – but it looked worn out in the first two games of division series in Houston.

Munoz had been hit hard and Sewald was shaky in Toronto and Houston.

They responded with a more typical performance, both facing the heart of the Astros vaunted lineup. Munoz struck out three in his one inning of work, and Sewald struck out four in two innings.

“That’s more of the bullpen and the pitching staff that won us 90 games to get us in this postseason,” Sewald said. “We hadn’t pitched up to our capabilities. If we would’ve won that Game 1 (in Houston), who knows (what happens)? But you can’t play what-ifs. Everybody went out there and pitched their balls off. It’s disappointing that we couldn’t scrape one (run), but their pitching staff is unbelievable, too. They won 106 games. That’s why they’re the 1 seed.”

Sewald had taken Munoz, 23, under his wing this season, regularly pumping him up and convincing him he can dominate any hitter in the majors.

“I can’t think that he would think anything other than he’s the best reliever in baseball. That’s what he was this year,” Sewald said. “He was unbelievable.”

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