The Seattle Mariners, a team who had not made the playoffs for the past 20 seasons, just swept the top-ranked wild card team, in enemy territory, and are now on to the American League Divisional Series.
They will face a foe who they see quite often during the regular season, the 2017 world-champion/trash-banging Houston Astros. It will be a best-of-five series, starting with two consecutive games on the road before games three and four in front of a sold-out T-Mobile Park this upcoming weekend.
But before we get to an ALDS preview, let’s recap the wild card series sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Friday was pure dominance by mid-season acquisition, and now long-term ace, Luis Castillo. But let’s not look past the Seattle offense, especially in the first inning off of Alek Manoah.
Julio, in his first ever playoff at-bat, was pegged on the hand by Manoah. One out later and Geno brought him home on an oppo-double. Cal “Big Dumper” Raleigh continued his reign as of late and took Manoah deep in the first as well for a two-run shot into the right field seats.
One run was all Castillo and Andres Munoz needed in game one. Luis told reporters after the game that Friday was the hardest he has ever thrown in an MLB game. A seven-plus inning, shutout showing, backed by five strikeouts, and no walks. La Piedra pumped his fist after striking out the side in the seventh. Munoz came in after Castillo beaned George Springer on the wrist with a 98-MPH fastball in the eighth.
Was that on purpose, considering Alek Manoah hit Julio twice in the game? I will let you decide. But that base runner was no problem for Munoz. Andres featured a 93-MPH slider and a 103-MPH fastball in his 1 2/3 innings of work, striking out two, and not allowing a single base runner.
Seattle took the opener by a score of 4-0.
Saturday, and game two, featured another prime pitching matchup. It was Robbie Ray, the 2021 AL Cy Young winner on Toronto last year, up against Kevin Gausman, who was brought into replace Ray on the Blue Jays this season.
Seattle’s starter was not sharp against his former team, and this one got out of hand quickly for the M’s.
Toronto jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Seattle even had their first hit of the ballgame. Teoscar Hernandez hit a towering, two-run home run off of Ray in the second. Vladdy Jr. singled to score a run in the third, and Hernandez went yard again in the fourth, this time a solo blast.
Seattle got on the board in the fifth via a Jarred Kelenic sacrifice fly. But then Toronto continued to add on.
A passed ball, hit-by-pitch, sac fly and double gave the Jays a touchdown advantage, a lead of seven runs. Ray was done after just three innings, giving up four of the eight runs on six hits and four Ks. Paul Sewald was off his normal games as well, and he was credited with the other four earned runs, walking two, hitting one and allowing three base hits.
The score was 8-1 Toronto, and everyone was looking forward to game three on Sunday. Seattle’s veteran designated hitter Carlos Santana said not so fast. After the M’s got one back on a wild pitch, Santana took Jays’ reliever Tim Mayza deep into left-center field, lowering the score gap to 8-5.
Toronto added one more run on a Danny Jansen single.
Then the top of the eighth happened, and the baseball gods shined down into the Rogers Centre, onto the away team. Cal Raleigh hit an oppo-single to bring home Geno, and with two outs, J.P. stepped to the plate with the bases loaded.
Crawford hit a loopy shot into the Bermuda triangle in center field. George Springer and Bo Bichette crashed hard into each other as the ball skipped past them both and farther into center field. As there were Blue Jays laid across the outfield, Mariners were hauling around the bases. All three runners scored, tying the game. After J.P. reached second on the three-run double, Springer had to get carted off the field.
Andres Munoz came in for the second-straight game to try and keep this one tied, and he did such that. A strikeout, walk, and two ground balls ended the inning for the Jays. Onto the ninth…
Cal Raleigh again delivered, with a one-out double. And on the same exact date as the famous 1995 double by Edgar Martinez, the impossible happened. A roped, RBI double by Adam Frazier scored Cal, and gave Seattle a one-run lead in the ninth, and the impossible became quite possible after that moment.
Scott Servais turned to Rookie George Kirby to close this one out. He faced one over the minimum and a Raimel Tapia fly out to Julio in center ended one of the most miraculous comebacks in not only Mariners, but playoff history.
Seattle won 10-9, and advanced to the American League Divisional Series.
Tomorrow is game one, and it will be potential-Cy Young winner Justin Verlander up against Logan Gilbert.
Verlander faced the M’s six times this regular season and was dominant outside of one start. The 39-year-old starter was 5-1 against Seattle in 2022, allowing a mere 11 earned runs over 43 strikeouts.
Gilbert matched up against Houston four times this year. He went 2-1 with 2.52 ERA and 22 strikeouts against the Astros over his four starts.
Thursday’s pitching matchup appears to be Luis Castillo for the M’s, but Houston is TBD due to a “sickness” going around the Houston clubhouse.
First pitch is set for 12:37 PM tomorrow, on TBS. Thursday’s time and channel is the exact same.