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Mariners waste gem from Luis Castillo, go quietly against Rangers

Luis Castillo of the Seattle Mariners throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on Friday, June 2, 2023, in Arlington, Texas.  (Tribune News Service)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

ARLINGTON, Texas – Holding the top offensive team in baseball to just one run in seven innings of work is an effort that should be celebrated for any starting pitcher.

Congrats, Luis Castillo.

Fantastic job, but, sorry, that was one run too many.

Here’s your loss.

Despite another strong outing from Castillo, who did everything possible other than drive in some runs himself, the Mariners’ offensive offense contributed nothing of substance with a submissive showing in a 2-0 loss to the Rangers.

“Luis Castillo, can’t say enough,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “You go out there for seven innings against probably one of the hottest offense in the game and to pitch the way he did, I feel bad we didn’t do anything for him offensively.”

Maybe having Castillo hit might be an idea to explore at this point.

The Mariners wasted a brilliant outing against the team leading the American League West by doing nothing in terms of offense.

“You have to take advantage of them and we are not doing that right now,” Servais said.

They haven’t been doing it for much of the season. It’s why their overall record fell to 29-28 despite a starting rotation that has been one of the best in MLB. The Mariners were held scoreless for the fourth time this season and the fifth time they only generated three hits.

Texas starter Jon Gray shut down the Mariners for a second time this season, pitching seven scoreless innings while allowing just two hits with a walk and five strikeouts to get the win. In his past five starts, including two vs. Seattle, Gray is 5-0 with a 0.79 ERA. In 34 innings pitched, he’s allowed three runs with five walks and 32 strikeouts.

“We just didn’t get anything going against Gray,” Servais said. “He had a good slider and pitched us much like he did last time. We just did not make an adjustment tonight and get on him at all.”

Gray threw 82 pitches, relying heavily on his slider (38) and four-seam fastball (31). Seattle hitters swung at those pitches 43 times and whiffed on 12 of them. They put just three balls in play that had exit velocities of at least a 95 mph , which is considered a hard-hit ball. Seattle had just one at-bat with a runner in scoring position.

“He’s got a good slider,” Servais said. “There’s no question about it and he throws it hard. He tends to lean on the slider a little bit more against us in the zone early, out of the zone late. He moved it around. He’s had a good year. We’re not the only team he’s done this against, we’ve got to make better adjustments, quicker adjustments, whatever you want to call it. That’s not going to get it done.”

Seattle’s first hit off Gray was looping fly ball to right field off the bat of Teoscar Hernandez. But instead of having a leadoff runner on in the third inning, Hernandez tried to turn it into a double. Adolis Garcia fired a perfect throw to second to get Hernandez for his ninth outfield assist this season. Later in the inning, Jose Caballero took a pitch off the shoulder for a two-out baserunner, but he was picked off at first base by Gray.

“We didn’t have many opportunities tonight,” Servais said. “So those outs do get magnified.”

The Mariners sort of threatened to score just once against Gray. With two outs in the fourth, Julio Rodriguez singled to right field and Jarred Kelenic worked a walk for their only runner in scoring position.

But Gray got Eugenio Suarez to fly out harmlessly to center to end the inning.

Castillo was almost just good. He hadn’t allowed a hit until one out in the fifth inning when Robbie Grossman and Travis Jankowski came up with back-to-back singles. But Castillo coolly stranded the baserunners in scoring position, getting a pair of pop ups.

He gave up his lone run in the sixth inning. Marcus Semien led off with a single and Corey Seager followed with a single that put runners on the corners.

Nathaniel Lowe gave Texas a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly to left.

“Give them a lot of credit,” Castillo said through interpreter Freddy Llanos. “They hitting and making contact on some of the best pitches that I was throwing them.”

The Mariners victory hopes seemed bleak after Castillo allowed the run. They were dead when Matt Brash gave up an unearned run in the eighth inning. Brash allowed a bloop single to Jonah Heim to start the inning. A passed ball on catcher Cal Raleigh moved Heim to second and he scored on Seager’s soft double into right field.