OAKLAND, Calif. – Two days ago, as they packed for the final road trip of the regular season, the disappointment and the uncertainty couldn’t be hidden in the Mariners’ clubhouse at T-Mobile Park.
They had just been swept in a three-game series at home by the Dodgers and seemed to have played themselves out of any possibility of winning the American League West title while putting a return trip to the postseason in doubt.
They were 2½ games behind the first-place Astros and essentially two games out of the third wild-card spot, trailing the Rangers by one game, who also held the temporary tiebreaker advantage.
There was an angst that hadn’t been felt in since late June.
And among the fanbase? Well, that was some combination of discontent, depression and derision. Their own stages of grief.
And then, well, baseball happened.
When the Mariners wrapped up their comfortable 7-2 victory over the A’s, Tuesday night at the mostly empty Oakland Coliseum, they sat a half-game back of the Astros (84-68), who have lost six of their past eight games, for the division lead with same record as the Rangers at 83-68.
The Mariners got another strong outing from starter Luis Castillo in a season filled with them. He pitched seven innings, allowing two runs – both in his last inning of work – on five hits with three walks and eight strikeouts to improve to 14-7 on the season.
Castillo has pitched at least five complete innings in each of his 31 starts this season.
When Castillo struck out Shea Langeliers to start the second inning, his first of the game, he reached 200 strikeouts for the season. It was just the second time in his career he’s surpassed that milestone. In 2019, he struck out 226 batters in 32 starts.
With the Mariners expected to stay in rotation and battled for a postseason spot till the end, he will likely make two more starts – Monday vs. the Astros in Seattle and possibly Sept. 30 vs. the Rangers – in the regular season. It will likely push him past the 200-inning mark for a season, which is rare for starting pitchers in the current era of baseball.
Castillo wasn’t particularly sharp early, allowing base runners to reach in three of his first four innings . He got some help from his defense.
Catcher Cal Raleigh erased singles from Esteury Ruiz and Tony Kemp by throwing both of them out at second on stolen-base attempts. Raleigh made a strong, low throw when Ruiz, who came into the game with 61 stolen bases, broke for second. Shortstop J.P. Crawford made a nifty pick on the short hop and applied a quick tag for the out. Raleigh’s throw to second on Kemp’s attempt was high. But second baseman Josh Rojas made a leaping grab and reached down to tag Kemp between his legs.
Castillo picked up another unexpected out when Jarred Kelenic sprinted through the expanse of foul territory on the left side of the field, avoiding the home plates in the bullpen and a security guard to make a fantastic catch on a pop up.
The Mariners; offense provided some late run support, scoring four runs in the seventh to turn an early 2-0 lead to a 6-0 lead.
Facing right-hander Paul Blackburn, Kelenic delivered a pair of RBI singles for the early lead.
Seattle made it more comfortable in the seventh, highlighted by a run-scoring double to deep right-center from J.P. Crawford, RBI singles from Raleigh and Teoscar Hernandez and a free run on a wild pitch.