July 14, 2024

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The Mariners opened a decisive 3-game series against the Rangers with a 3-2 win

The Mariners opened a decisive 3-game series against the Rangers with a 3-2 win

Win one round?

It’s really the only way the Mariners can start their most important series yet in the 2024 season.

A nondescript four-inning victory? Fun six-stroke paste? no. It must have been very worrying because failure was just one step away until the 27th minute.

The Mariners followed a familiar formula for success: a strong start, tight action and enough offense to hold on for a 3-2 win in the opener of this crucial three-game series between the top two teams in the American League West.

declared the crowd of 41,814 that filled T-Mobile Park on Friday night, and everyone stood in anxious anticipation while fighting off fear of the worst, as Ryne Stanek tried to close out the win after allowing a single to Wyatt Langford in the bottom of the ninth.

With the tying run on second base, Stanek got pinch hitter Josh Smith to pop in front of second baseman Dylan Moore. Stanek needed just one pitch — a 98 mph fastball — to retire Ezequiel Duran with an easy pitch to third baseman Josh Rojas and notch his sixth save of the season.

The Mariners improved to 41-31 and moved to within 6.5 games of the Rangers in the division. In 20 games against American League West teams, the Mariners have a 15-5 record, including 3-1 against the Texans this season.

“Our guys know that,” manager Scott Servais said. “If you want to win in the West, you have to beat both teams in Texas. You have to care about your division. These teams have won the last two World Series. So it’s a good way to start the series.”

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But the start of the series was less than ideal.

It looks like it could be another struggle against Seattle Rangers outfielder Luis Castillo.

The last time he faced the defending World Series champions at T-Mobile Park was on September 30 of last season. With the Mariners’ postseason hopes fading, they needed him to provide an outing worthy of an ace. In front of a packed house, Castillo was anything but ordinary. He was hitable and forgettable, giving up four runs on five hits with five walks and pitching 2 2/3 innings. The Mariners were unable to recover and lost 6-1. They were eliminated about an hour after the loss when Houston defeated Arizona.

It’s a feeling Castillo has never forgotten.

“Last year didn’t go the way we wanted,” Castillo said through translator Freddy Llanos. “These guys have gone all the way and gone all the way in the World Series. This year, I want this team to get to the playoffs because I think we have the talent and the roster to go far in these playoffs and I think we’re on the right track.”

But when Nathaniel Lowe smashed a run-scoring double with two outs in the first inning and Langford Blazer followed with a single to center to score Lowe for a 2-0 lead before the Mariners struck out, well, it looked like a familiar road from last season.

“It was the two swings that hurt us,” Castillo said.

But Castillo’s teammates picked it up, tying the game in the bottom of the first inning on a homer by Mitch Garver off Rangers starter Andrew Heaney. The deep drive landed just beyond the reach of Leody Taveras’ jumper to The ‘Pen.

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“I was very surprised it came out,” Garver said. “But the roof was closed. The roof was open last night and I lined up in shallow center field on the ball. I thought I hit it pretty well. So I don’t know, I’ve just got to go out and hit higher.”

After his eighth homer of the season, Garver went straight to starting pitcher.

“As soon as he got into the dugout, he came up to me and said, ‘I got you, bro,’” Castillo said. “It’s little things like that, and that kind of gives me that positivity of wanting to come out on the field every day and play for these guys.”

As he reset his outing, Castillo made it count. He struck out the next four batters he faced and allowed just one hit and one walk over the next five innings.

“When we tied the game, I then thought: OK, it’s 0-0, let’s go win this,” Castillo said. “But these hitters, I mean they just won the World Series last year. You know if you miss your spot, they’re going to do damage.”

But he didn’t miss many points after that first half.

“After that first half, I was a little worried,” Servais said. “But he’s Luis Castillo, he’s been around the league and given up two runs in the first inning before. He knows how to flip the switch and put it back in. And when you get a second-run home run in the first, it really helps the rookie.”

The Mariners took the lead in the bottom of the third.

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J.B. Crawford led off with a repeated single to center. Mitch Haniger followed with a single to left center to put runners on the corners.

Julio Rodriguez pushed through the go-ahead run with a one-hop rocket shot to second base. Marcus Semien gloved the 107 mph shot, but couldn’t hit a home run and only forced out second.

Seattle couldn’t write off another insurance run. The Sailors had opportunities but could not capitalize on them. The Mariners got a scoreless seventh inning from Mike Bowman and a scoreless eighth from Andres Munoz, who worked around a two-out walk to Corey Seager and a controversial rejected call, by striking out Adelis Garcia.

The result is square