What is an ace worth? Tonight Luis Castillo decided to demonstrate that to a crowd of 38,804 at T-Mobile Park, showing why, exactly, the Mariners gave up a significant chunk of their farm to retain the services of the 29-year-old pitcher. Facing a Yankees lineup that, while Rizzo-less, still contains one of the league’s most fearsome power hitters in Aaron Judge, Castillo shut the Yankees down completely over eight innings of work.
The Yankees’ strategy was to swing early and often at Castillo’s stuff, trying to get to him on the heater before he had a chance to execute his secondary pitches against them. It…did not go great for them. Castillo threw 17 pitches in the first, which would be his high mark until the later innings: he went eight in the second, 10 in the third, 14 in the fourth, 15 in the fifth, 12 in the sixth (when he was helped out on an ill-advised Aaron Judge caught stealing), and 16 in the seventh. It took Castillo 18 pitches to grind through his eighth inning of work, as Aaron Hicks worked a pesky seven-pitch walk, but when he finally got Isiah Kiner-Falefa to ground out to end the inning, T-Mobile Park was LOUD:
Looking at Castillo’s CSW% numbers, you see why the Yankees wanted to get ahead of him on his fastball—Castillo threw about 20% sliders tonight, earning an outstanding 55% CSW% on them. The changeup he threw less often (about 15% of the time) —and largely to Aaron Judge, because obviously you do n’t throw Aaron Judge anything resembling a fastball unless you have to—but his mark on that was also outstanding, at 40%.
Andrew Benintendi’s night against Castillo sort of summarizes the Yankees hitters as a whole: three at-bats, four pitches seen, one hit (a base hit), two flyouts. Castillo gave up just three hits, all singles: the one to Benintendi (90.6 EV) in the first inning, one to Judge (99 EV) in the fourth, and one parachute bloop to Miguel Andújar in the eighth (a whopping 67.5 MPH EV) ). That was all the Yankees could get going against the Mariners’ freshly minted ace, who later gave props to the crowd at T-Mobile Park, thanking them for being loud on every pitch, every out, every inning.
Unfortunately, Gerrit Cole matched Castillo pitch for pitch—almost literally, as both finished with 72 strikes on almost the exact same number of pitches (109 for Cole, 110 for Castillo), with Castillo’s eight strikeouts coming one shy of Cole’s nine, and Castillo allowing one less hit than Cole. The difference is Castillo, thanks to the Yankees’ strategy of swinging early and often, was able to last an inning longer than his counterpart, saving an inning for the bullpen, which would prove to be crucial as the game wound on and on.
That difference wouldn’t have been necessary if the Mariners were able to connect a couple of their few baserunners but alas, that was not to be. Some of what was just plain bad luck: Ty France was robbed of a hit with a diving play by Aaron Judge in the first; in the second, Cal Raleigh put a good swing on a Cole fastball that came off the bat with the speed and distance to wind up in Mercer Island, but hooked just foul. In the third, JP Crawford hit a ball with a .790 xBA and was also robbed by an excellent diving play by Andrew Benintendi. Sam Haggerty was not robbed, in that same inning, sending 100 MPH from Cole right back where it came from, but was later caught stealing to end the inning. And so it would go. Every time the Mariners offense crept towards doing A Thing, something happened to pull them back, like a giant cosmic toddler leash yanking them away from run-scoring opportunities. Adam Frazier got greedy-eyed on a single, tried to turn it into a double, and got thrown out at second. That kind of thing.
However, the Yankees were also doing their own version of that kind of thing. When the Yankees did make contact against Castillo, they ran into silly outs on the bases, like a failed steal with Aaron Judge testing all six foot five of him against Cal Raleigh’s throwing arm. (Cal won.) Meanwhile, T-Mobile got louder and louder, with the many Yankees fans in attendance and some doughty Mariners fans taking turns yelling their team to victory.
To the bullpens!
After Castillo’s scoreless top of the inning, the Yankees ran out Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the eighth. Cal Raleigh battled Chapman to a full count but flied out, and once again Sam Haggerty attempted to be the folk hero of this game, taking 101.2 MPH from Chapman and sending it back where it came from at 102.3 MPH. But the Mariners would be turned away.
Seattle countered in the top of the ninth with their own fireballer, Andres Muñoz, who pitched maybe the most dominant single inning I’ve ever seen from him, obliterating the top of the Yankees lineup on 15 pitches.
He took out LeMahieu and Judge swinging after sliders, and dotted up Benintendi on a called fastball at 101.7. T-Mobile got very loud, very quickly.
But again, the Mariners would be turned away in the bottom of the ninth, despite new Yankees reliever Clay Holmes hitting Adam Frazier to begin the inning. Ty France, who looked wrong-footed by Holmes all at-bat, grounded weakly into a double play, and Haniger grounded out to send the game to extras.
Paul Sewald came on in the tenth and initially struggled with his command, falling behind Josh Donaldson 3-1 before eventually hitting him in the shoulder with a fastball. However, the Yankees then remembered how much they love making dumb outs on the basepaths and attempted a double-steal which was sniffed out well by the Mariners, who cut down Andrew Benintendi attempting to swipe third, essentially giving the Mariners a free out. A swinging bunt from Gleyber Torres made the second out, bringing up Andújar, a free swinger who nonetheless ran the count full, much to the disgust and dismay of the T-Mobile faithful. However, Sewald rebounded to strike out Andujar swinging, much to the scream and jubilation of the T-Mobile faithful. (And Sewald himself.)
But, say it with me now, the Mariners would be turned away in the bottom of the tenth, as trade deadline acquisition Scott Effross cut effortlessly through the middle of the Mariners order.
In a strange mirror image of the tenth, Matt Festa led off the 11th by falling behind 3-0 to Aaron Hicks, only to be bailed out by a leaping grab by Adam Frazier of a ball hit with a .660 xBA off the bat of Hicks, which turned into a double play when Andújar was picked off second. Trevino then lined out, on another excellent play by infielder-playing-outfield Sam Haggerty. It felt like the Sam Haggerty game. I wanted so badly for it to be the Sam Haggerty game.
Instead, Wandy Peralta intentionally walked Sam Haggerty for the first time in his big league career to set up a double play at first after JP bunted Cal Raleigh, the Manfred Man, over to third. Carlos Santana then grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw, and it felt, some, like the wind came out of the sails among the Mariners faithful at T-Mobile.
On came Matt Brash, who decided it was time to flip the switch on some Chaos Ball:
In a post-game interview, Brash was adorably, Canadian-ly humble about this play, saying all that was going through his mind was to get the ball out of his glove as quickly as possible to hand the ball over to the “professional infielders ”
The Mariners offense then rewarded Brash by failing to score again against Peralta and mid-inning-change new reliever and other trade deadline relief acquisition Lou Trivino, for which, I believe, the Yankees decision-makers should be put in prison, as 35,000- plus fans who stuck around into the 12th had to wait through Trivino’s entire warmup only to watch the Mariners go down again without scoring.
That forced Matt Brash out for a second inning of work, and with the Mariners having lost their DH by pinch-hitting Santana earlier, his last, which sent Chris Flexen out to the bullpen to warm up. The chaos ball vibes were intensifying. Brash intentionally walked Judge, which, obviously, and then punched out Benitedi looking. He then walked eternal Mariners pest Marwin Gonzalez, though, pinch-hitting for Donaldson, to load the bases, and things felt pretty dire. The Yankees fans in the building, having taken a couple innings off, got louder. But then Brash punched out Torres swinging on a slider so nasty we have to call it Ms. Jackson, and the Mariners fans were right back into it, reaching fever pitch when Andújar grounded out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 13th, Cal Raleigh pounced on Jonathan Loáisiga’s first pitch for a single, setting up runners at first and third with no outs. JP then grounded out softly, pushing Cal to second but not scoring Suárez from third, and setting up the Sam Haggerty Walkoff of my dreams. But no! For the first time in his career, Sam Haggerty was the recipient of two intentional walks, with the Yankees obviously hoping to set up the double play. Luis Torrens then pinch hit for Brash, meaning we were one ill-placed ground ball from the Chris Flexen: Reliever experience. But Torrens is a catcher, first and foremost, and he believes in taking care of his pitchers, even in this case:
And lo, the most improbable walkoff of the year was achieved. The Mariners got one (1) run on seven hits, didn’t get a hit between the eighth and thirteenth innings—a span roughly half of a normal baseball game—and walked away with a win anyway. They demonstrated why they gave up so much to trade for an ace in Castillo, a player who lifts the rest of the team on his shoulders and shows why he is nicknamed “La Piedra”—the rock. And they also got a huge contribution from a player on the fringes of their roster, someone who has had to fight for at-bats, proving that he, too, can step up and be the Mariners’ rock when necessary. Moreover, they got a win on a night that felt like it could be a playoff preview, going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league and, despite some dreadful offensive play at times, defeating them in every phase of the game. That, well, rocks.