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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Why Luis Castillo’s Mariners debut vs. Yankees was proof that he’s the ace Seattle needed

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The Mariners have made it clear that they are all-in on making the playoffs this year. Seattle made one of the biggest splashes of the trade deadline when it acquired right-hander Luis Castillo from the Reds in a blockbuster move that drained Seattle’s farm system of four of its top prospects.

If early returns are any indication, the investment looks like a good one. In his Mariners debut, Castillo allowed three runs, five hits and three walks and struck out eight over 6 2/3 innings as Seattle beat the Yankees 7-3 in New York on Wednesday.

The outing was better than the numbers. Castillo showed that he’s the ace Seattle needed for its playoff push.

The Sporting News looks at Castillo’s start and what it means for the Mariners.

MORE: Why Mariners traded for Castillo

Luis Castillo’s Mariners debut by the numbers

Castillo has been one of baseball’s best pitchers this season, but he had his work cut out for him against a team that entered the game averaging 5.2 runs per contest since the All-Star break. 

For the most part, Castillo made it look easy.

The average velocity of his sinker was 1.7 mph faster than his season average, bumping up to 98.3 mph from 96.6 mph. On top of that, his average rpm increased from 2,152 to 2,190. He got three swinging strikes with the pitch.

MORE: Luis Castillo trade grades

But Castillo’s best weapon against New York was his slider. He threw the pitch 24 percent of the time, and batters came up empty on 45 percent of those pitches. Four of his eight strikeouts came on the slider.

And Castillo was certainly not the beneficiary of friendly calls from home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor. Here’s a look at Castillo’s called balls:

Luis Castillo

Four pitches that were well inside the strike zone should have been called strikes. One of those misses by Bucknor led to a run-scoring single, and two others led directly to a walk.

The first pitch of note is the orange dot just above the bottom of the strike zone. That pitch would have struck out Isiah Kiner-Falefa and ended the second inning, but catcher Luis Torrens was crossed up and Bucknor called the pitch a ball, making the count 2-2.

Then this happened:

Bucknor did Castillo no favors later in the game, either. The yellow ball in the middle of the plate? That could have struck out Matt Carpenter in the sixth inning. Instead, the count went to 3-2. The yellow on the right-side line side of the rectangle? That was Ball 4 to Carpenter. The walk gave the Yankees runners on first and second with one out.

While Castillo worked out of that jam by striking out Josh Donaldson and getting Andrew Benintendi to line out to second, that’s a blemish on the box score that was no fault of Castillo.

MORE: MLB trade deadline winners and losers

Castillo won’t have Bucknor behind the plate for every start, and the overall success Wednesday has to be encouraging for Mariners fans.

After Castillo and Robbie Ray, Seattle’s other top starters are young. Logan Gilbert (25) has pitched the best for the M’s this season and George Kirby (24) has been the team’s second-best starter. But in must-win games, particularly in the playoffs, the Mariners will be relying on experience.

That, of course, is where the 29-year-old Castillo comes in. His start Wednesday against the team with the best record in the American League showed that he is ready for playoff baseball.


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