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Seattle Mariners

Mariners settle for split in Bronx after dropping series finale to Yankees

Yankees starter Luis Gil held the Seattle Mariners to one hit over six-plus innings on Thursday morning in New York.  (Tribune News Service)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

NEW YORK – When the Seattle Mariners opened the four-game series in the Bronx on Monday evening, the premise of a split with the Yankees would’ve seemed like an acceptable consolation to their standing goal of winning each series.

After all, the Yankees were returning home after winning seven consecutive games and doing so in dominant fashion.

After the Mariners somehow managed to win the first two games at Yankee Stadium, getting just one more win over the next two games seemed like an inevitability that would’ve helped offset a disappointing series loss in Baltimore.

Instead, the Mariners looked overwhelmed while dropping the final two games of the series in a pair of decisive losses, including being held scoreless in a 5-0 defeat in Thursday’s finale.

“When you get out of the gates hot like that, you certainly want to finish it,” M’s first baseman Ty France said.

There was nothing hot about the Mariners’ offense in the series finale.

The hitters mustered three hits – a single in the fifth inning and two singles in the ninth inning – while striking out 12 times and going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. It was the second time they were shut out this season.

“To win on the road, you’ve got to hit,” M’s manager Scott Servais said. “And we didn’t get anything going. Credit to their starter. He’s been really good. We knew coming into the game today it was going to be tough a tough battle. We were hoping to get more pitches on him. But he was efficient early in the game. And that was kind of the story.”

It’s a familiar story for the Mariners this season. They’ve endured this sort of loss when the offense is nonexistent. It was the third time they were held to three hits in a game, all of them losses, and the 33rd time they struck in double digits.

The Yankees’ pitching dominance started with right-hander Luis Gil, who was making his 10th start of the season. He worked 6⅓ innings without allowing a run and yielding one hit – an infield single to J.P. Crawford – with two walks and eight strikeouts to improve 6-1 and lower his ERA to 2.11.

“He kept us off balance,” France said. “He’s just he’s dialed in right now. He’s mixing his pitches well and his fastball is jumping out of his hand. He was able to move to the ball around the zone and made it tough on us.”

Gil, who turns 26 on June 3, used his upper 90s fastball and low 90s change-up, that features movement similar to Felix Hernandez’s change-up, to leave Mariners completely out of sorts.

Over his past five outings, he’s 5-0 with a 0.59 ERA, allowing two earned runs in 30⅔ innings and working at least six innings in each of those outings.

“He’s got three really good pitches,” Servais said. “The fastball has all kinds of life to it, a really good change-up. It’s a harder change-up with a lot of movement. He’s got a breaking ball to keep the righties honest. So there’s a reason he’s on a good run right now. It’s pretty electric stuff.”

M’s starter Luis Castillo couldn’t match Gil’s outing in a place where he’s pitched well.

Castillo worked through five laborious innings with runners on each of them, allowing two runs on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

Both runs came on solo homers.

In the second inning, Giancarlo Stanton jumped on a 96-mph fastball that was in the lower part of the strike zone – an area where he can get his massive arms extended on the swing – and drove it over the wall in center. MLB Statcast measured the blast at 445 feet with a 112 mph exit velocity.

An inning later, Castillo made a costly mistake. Down 2-0 to Aaron Judge, he threw a change-up to try and get weak contact in a hitter’s count.

But the change-up hung up in the zone and Judge smashed it over the wall in deep right-center for his 15th homer. It was his sixth homer in his past 11 games.

“I didn’t have the command that I wanted on some of those pitches,” Castillo said through interpreter Freddy Llanos. “There were two big swings on pitches that probably were not where I wanted them.”

Even though his command wavered and he threw far too many noncompetitive pitches that missed well away from the strike zone, Castillo worked the next two innings scoreless.

They were far from easy innings. He needed a double play to work around a leadoff walk to Anthony Rizzo in the fourth. In the fifth, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out on back-to-walks to Juan Soto and Judge and an infield single to Alex Verdugo.

After a brief conversation with pitching coach Pete Woodworth, Castillo came back to strike out Stanton and Rizzo to end the inning and his outing.

“He just told me I was one of the best baseball players in the world,” Castillo said. “To me, that’s very big for a pitching coach going out there telling you that and having confidence in you and the repertoire you have.”

Of Castillo’s 91 pitches, he threw 54 strikes. He had 12 three-ball counts. When he was ahead in counts, he couldn’t execute pitches to put away hitters.

These sort of starts happen over the course of a season, but it was more pronounced given the circumstances and the opponent.

Any chance of the Mariners making a comeback ended when the bullpen – specifically Trent Thornton and Gabe Speier – gave up three more runs in the seventh. Working his second inning, Thornton allowed a leadoff double to Anthony Volpe. Servais called on Speier to face Soto.

After Volpe stole third, Soto pushed a single through the right side past the drawn-in infield. Judge doubled over the head of Luke Raley in left field put runners on second and third. Verdugo followed with a sac fly to center off Speier.

Right-hander Mike Baumann, who joined the Mariners before the game the morning after being traded late Wednesday night, allowed another run on a sac fly to Rizzo.