BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Mariners In Focus: What stands out from M’s debut of Luis Castillo

Aug 3, 2022, 3:57 PM
Mariners Luis Castillo...
Luis Castillo pitches during against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 03, 2022. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Wednesday was the first Luis Castillo Day for the Mariners, and Seattle will take plenty more days like that.

Early power sends Mariners past Yankees 7-3 in Luis Castillo’s debut

Castillo, the prize of Seattle’s acquisitions before Tuesday’s trade deadline, turned in 6 2/3 innings of three-run ball while allowing five hits, walking three and striking out eight Yankees hitters in his M’s debut. He also got some great run support as the Mariners jumped out on New York’s $324 million ace Gerrit Cole, tagging him for six runs in the first inning before Castillo threw a single pitch. All in all, Seattle won the game 7-3 and secured a big series win over the AL East-leading Yankees.

While the six early runs off Cole was certainly a stellar development, all eyes were on the Mariners’ big deadline acquisition of Castillo as he pitched his first game in a Seattle uniform.

You have the box score numbers, but what did Castillo’s first M’s start really look like? Let’s break it down.

Dude was amped up

Castillo was pretty juiced Wednesday, and for good reason.

It was his first start for a new team and his first “meaningful” start in terms of playoff contention this year. It also came in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium and against the Yankees, who own the American League’s best record and have a dangerous lineup, even if MVP frontrunner Aaron Judge had the afternoon off.

It was evident that was the case when looking at the fastball. According to Statcast, Castillo averaged 98.3 mph on his sinker and 98.0 with the four-seam fastball in his first Mariners start. For context, Castillo entered Wednesday averaging 96.6 mph with the sinker and 96.9 with the four-seamer. Yeah, good little jump in velo from a guy who is already one of the hardest-throwing starting pitchers in baseball.

Castillo appeared to be overthrowing the fastball early in the game, missing well down and out of the zone. Through his first two innings, Castillo had allowed three hits, a walk and a run on 39 pitches, with 22 strikes and 17 balls.

Some of that can be attributed to what I listed above, as well as the fact that Castillo’s break between his pregame bullpen session and his first pitch was longer than usual as the Mariners jumped out to a 6-0 lead before Castillo even toed the rubber. But after recording the final out of the second inning, which came on a stellar relay throw from shortstop J.P. Crawford, Castillo got into a nice little groove.

In the zone

After Crawford gunned down Isiah Kiner-Falefa to end the second inning, Mariners fans saw the kind of weapon Castillo can be.

He retired 10 in a row between the start of the third inning and the first out of the sixth inning, picking up five of his eight strikeouts in that span. And after throwing 39 pitches in the first two innings, Castillo needed just 33 to record all nine outs in the third through fifth. He worked ahead, and when he did throw a first-pitch ball he came right back with a strike.

One pitch in particular that stood out was Castillo’s strikeout of Anthony Rizzo to start the third inning.

With a right-hander on the mound and a lefty at the plate, the typical go-to pitches to record outs are the fastball or the changeup. But a hard slider at 87.6 mph with electric and sharp movement ending just a hair off the inside corner? That’s just mean. The slider was at times Castillo’s best offering as he recorded five swings and misses with the hard breaking ball while also landing it for eight called strikes, though he did allow a home run on the pitch.

Castillo also was able to expand the zone with the fastball for strikeouts, pitching just above the zone as well as running the sinker off the outside corner to lefty Matt Carpenter or using the movement to clip the outside corner to righty Kyle Higashioka.

The changeup, which is often Castillo’s best pitch, wasn’t quite on during Wednesday’s contest, but he threw one in particular to Josh Donaldson that was nasty, pulling the string and getting him to chase down out of the zone for strike three.

The best is still to come

Castillo was great in New York, working into the seventh inning, picking up his eight strikeouts and turning in a quality start.

All that being said, Mariners fans didn’t even see the best version of Castillo.

The velocity was elite and the movement was fantastic, but Castillo has missed more bats than he did in New York, where he generated just 12 swings and misses. I mentioned his elite changeup, and he threw that just 19 times including the one swing and miss by Donaldson. Part of that may have been the Yankees having five right-handed hitters in the lineup, but it also looked like Castillo didn’t have a great feel for the pitch throughout the start. New York really didn’t bite at the pitch, either, swinging just five times out of 19 offerings.

And as mentioned, it took Castillo two innings and roughly 40 pitches to find his footing. After that, he was flat-out dominant for most of his start.

The All-Star hurler also allowed some loud contact that thankfully went his way. Higashioka got to him twice with a double and a home run that knocked him out of the contest in the seventh inning, but Rizzo and Aaron Hicks each had sharp lineouts with exit velocities over 105 mph. That kind of contact doesn’t typically work out for you as a pitcher.

This should not be seen as a slight by any means towards Castillo’s outing, but rather make Mariners fans more excited going forward that Castillo can turn in some truly masterful performances. It also shows that even when he’s not at his best from a command perspective, Castillo can navigate through dangerous lineups and give Seattle an excellent chance to win.

Castillo gets the Yankees once again early next week, this time in Seattle. If he can have better command of the fastball early and have a better feel for his excellent changeup, New York might be in for another long day yet again.

The Mariners’ biggest win of the season just came out of nowhere

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Mariners In Focus: What stands out from M’s debut of Luis Castillo