How Mariners’ starting rotation looks for Wild Card round vs Blue Jays
The Mariners’ strength this season has been its pitching staff, and that will be put to the test this weekend in a best-of-three series with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Jays have one of baseball’s best and most dangerous lineups, headlined by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer and Bo Bichette. So how will the Mariners counter that lineup?
Luis Castillo, the Mariners’ prized trade deadline acquisition who recently signed a five-year deal worth more than $100 million, will get the ball in Game 1. Castillo, a 2022 All-Star, will match up with fellow All-Star right-hander Alek Manoah. The Blue Jays have not announced starters for Game 2 or 3, but Kevin Gausman is expected to start one of them. He left his last start with a cut finger on his throwing hand.
“I feel very good,” manager Scott Servais told reporters Thursday afternoon of giving Castillo the ball in the series opener. “And a thank you to our ownership group and our front office for trading for Luis Castillo and then signing him long-term. Any manager in this game understands the value of high-end starting pitching. It just gives you a chance to win every night. And Luis certainly does that. He has the ability to go shut down any lineup on any given night with his stuff.”
Castillo, who has a 2.99 ERA this year, has seen an uptick in his velocity and stuff, Servais said. That’s in addition to having a great mindset for playoff baseball.
“He wants to be the guy. He revels in that, he enjoys it. We quickly saw it when we acquired him,” Servais said. “… He likes the high-end competition and he’s certainly got the ability to go out and execute a game plan and keep his emotions in check along the way, which is really important. I couldn’t be any more confident in sending anyone out there.”
But what about Game 2 and a potential Game 3?
“The plan right now is to go Robbie Ray after that and then Logan Gilbert in Game 3,” Servais said. “That could change. It very well could change.”
Ray, the 2021 AL Cy Young Winner while with the Blue Jays, has a 3.71 ERA and 212 strikeouts in 189 innings in his first season with the Mariners.
Gilbert, in his first full MLB season, has a 3.20 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 185 2/3 innings in 2022.
The Mariners also have rookie right-hander George Kirby “in the wings,” Servais said. Kirby has been stellar as a rookie, posting a 3.39 ERA and 133 strikeouts to just 22 walks in 130 innings across 25 starts.
“He’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League here in the last couple months. He will play a role in this series. In what game or juncture he’ll insert himself in, I’m not sure yet. The game kind of tells you,” Servais said.
“The strength of our team is our pitching staff,” Servais added. “There’s no question about it. I have a lot of confidence in any of the guys we put out there.”