Luis Castillo back to his old self as Mariners blast Athletics to open homestand
May 22, 2023 Updated Mon., May 22, 2023 at 9:53 p.m.
SEATTLE – The randomness of regular-season results, including the unexpected outcomes of games, is a somewhat accepted and romantic charm of the marathon that is a 162-game baseball season.
The sheer number of games, and the possibility of a starting pitcher influencing the final score in either way, allows for some understanding when a bad team beats a good team. And while, the Mariners may not have been among baseball’s elite through their first 46 games, when they jogged on to the manicured surface of T-Mobile Park in Monday night’s opener of a 10-game homestand, the possibility of losing that game against the Oakland Athleics should’ve been between not happening and never.
To be clear, the Mariners, based on how they’ve played for much of the previous 46 games, are not one of the best teams in baseball. They’ve been one of the most perplexing, frustrating and largely disappointing teams in the first two months of the season.
The A’s, well, they are without a peer in being the worst team in baseball. They might be one of the worst teams in the last 40 years. For what they lack in experience, the A’s fail to make up for it due an equal lack of talent. Like the plot of the movie “Major League,” they are bad enough to relocate the franchise to a different city.Coming off a disappointing trip on which their offensive production was intermittent at best and absent when needed, and with Luis Castillo looking to re-establish his dominance after substandard showings in his previous outings, defeat was not an option for the Mariners.
From the first pitch of an 11-2 victory, the Mariners played like the significantly superior team in all facets of the game. Yes, they should beat Oakland. But they did it decisively. It’s something Seattle didn’t look during a three-game series at a largely empty Oakland Coliseum in the first week of May. The Mariners needed to save solid starting pitching performances and come from behind in each of its wins in a three-game sweep in Oakland.
But this game wasn’t close or competitive.
Castillo came out firing pinpoint fastballs that reached 99 mph, peppering the top of the strike zone and overwhelming A’s hitters and looking more like the playoff version of himself. He tossed six shutout innings, allowing four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.
But it was his fifth strikeout out of the game that will be the most memorable for Castillo. Facing slugging catcher Shea Langeliers, who had doubled to left in his first at-bat, he fired a 96-mph fastball at the top of the strike zone for a swinging first strike. After a changeup low and out of the zone was called a ball, Castillo blew two fastballs at 97 mph and 98 mph past the swinging Shea Langeliers at the top of the strike zone for his 1,000th career strikeout.
Meanwhile the much-maligned Mariners offense, delivered one of its better overall showings in recent weeks, grinding through at-bats and forcing A’s starter Kyle Muller and the relievers that followed to pitch behind in counts with runners on base.
Seattle banged out 13 hits, worked five walks and struck out just eight times in the game. Eight of their nine hitters reached base with seven tallying hits.
Jarred Kelenic gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead in the first inning in a textbook at-bat. After refusing to swing at sliders out of the strike zone on the first two pitches to get ahead 2-0, Kelenic sat on a 94-mph fastball from Muller, sending baseball-sized comet into the stands in deep right-center. The blasted had 112-mph exit velocity and measured 455 feet.
It was Kelenic’s 10th homer of the season. The last Mariners player age 23 or younger reach double figures in home runs that fast in a season was Alex Rodriguez, who did it in 31 games in 1999.
The Mariners were relentless against Muller. An inning later, Cal Raleigh led off with a single and AJ Pollock worked a one-out walk to bring surprising phenomenon that is Jose Caballero to the plate.
After hitting his first MLB homer in his last at-bat on Sunday, Caballero followed that up with his second MLB homer in his first at-bat Monday. The hot-hitting infielder smashed a 2-1 a slider into the Mariners bullpen.
After Muller was able to work two innings scoreless, Seattle picked up another run in the fifth when Julio Rodriguez led off with a hustle double on a blooper to right field and Kelenic smacked a single up the middle to make it 6-0.
Seattle added two more in the sixth as Rodriguez, who had three hits on the night, roped a run-scoring double to left and Eugenio Suarez added an RBI single.
After Oakland picked up two runs in the eighth against Seattle’s bullpen, the Mariners responded with three more in the bottom half of the inning.
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