BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Mariners have no shortage of heroes in incredible sweep of Blue Jays

Oct 8, 2022, 6:41 PM | Updated: 8:36 pm
TORONTO, ONTARIO - OCTOBER 08: Adam Frazier #26 of the Seattle Mariners hits an RBI double against Jordan Romano #68 of the Toronto Blue Jays to take the lead during the ninth inning in game two of the American League Wild Card Series at Rogers Centre on October 08, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) TORONTO, ONTARIO - OCTOBER 08: J.P. Crawford #3 of the Seattle Mariners hits a three run double against Jordan Romano #68 of the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in game two of the American League Wild Card Series at Rogers Centre on October 08, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) TORONTO, ONTARIO - OCTOBER 08: Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates after scoring on a double hit by J.P. Crawford #3 against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in game two of the American League Wild Card Series at Rogers Centre on October 08, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) TORONTO, ONTARIO - OCTOBER 08: Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates after scoring on a double hit by J.P. Crawford #3 against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in game two of the American League Wild Card Series at Rogers Centre on October 08, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) TORONTO, ONTARIO - OCTOBER 08: Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates after scoring on a double hit by J.P. Crawford #3 against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in game two of the American League Wild Card Series at Rogers Centre on October 08, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) TORONTO, ONTARIO - OCTOBER 08: Eugenio Suarez #28 of the Seattle Mariners hits a double against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in game two of the American League Wild Card Series at Rogers Centre on October 08, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) TORONTO, ONTARIO - OCTOBER 08: Carlos Santana #41 of the Seattle Mariners hits a three run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the sixth inning in game two of the American League Wild Card Series at Rogers Centre on October 08, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 07: Luis Castillo #21 of the Seattle Mariners (R) celebrates with Andres Munoz #75 after their team defeated the Toronto Blue Jays in Game One of their AL Wild Card series at Rogers Centre on October 7, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 07: Andres Munoz #75 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates the win with catcher Cal Raleigh #29 following Game One of the AL Wild Card series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on October 7, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 07: Luis Castillo #21 of the Seattle Mariners pitches to the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning in Game One of their AL Wild Card series at Rogers Centre on October 7, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

8-1 deficit? Robbie Ray not getting through four innings? Paul Sewald imploding? No hits from the lineup into the fifth inning? The Mariners don’t care, as they erased that seven-run fifth inning deficit and beat the Toronto Blue Jays 10-9, sweeping the Wild Card round and earning an ALDS date with the Houston Astros.

Believe it! Mariners come back from seven down, clinch ALDS berth

It was an unbelievable comeback for a team that has been anything but ordinary this year. They’ll be the first to tell you they thrive in chaos, and boy, it didn’t get any more chaotic than how they came back from that 8-1 hole through five innings in Toronto, arguably baseball’s best homefield advantage.

It was the largest road comeback in MLB playoff history. It was the second-largest postseason comeback period in MLB history. And it sets up a showdown of two divisional foes who simply don’t like each other.

Video: Highlights from Mariners’ sweep with Seattle Sports radio calls

Any postseason series has heroes, and for the Mariners, a few were expected while some weren’t quite on that level. Let’s give some flowers to those heroes for Seattle.

Adam Frazier

Adam Frazier had a wonderful first half of 2021, earning All-Star honors before Pittsburgh traded him to San Diego. He didn’t do too well with the Padres, though, and was sent to Seattle this offseason as one of the Mariners’ four big offseason acquisitions.

Frazier had some flashes early, but his 2022 was an overall disappointment as he slashed just .238/.301/.311 in 156 games.

But there was a comment that Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto made at the start of the year that always was in the back of my mind when it came to Frazier.

“Championship teams have Adam Fraziers,” Dipoto told Mike Salk on the April 8 Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM. “And he is a constant on-base threat.”

Frazier’s bat-to-ball skills were apparent, he just didn’t produce enough in 2022.

Did that ever change this postseason, especially Saturday when he picked up three hits, scored two runs and drove in the game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning.

What makes Frazier valuable was on full display Saturday with the big ninth-inning hit, of course, but also because he got on to score those two runs and was robbed of a hit earlier in the ballgame.

Playoff teams have Adam Fraziers, and the Adam Frazier couldn’t have lived up to that billing at a better time.

J.P. Crawford

After a hot start to 2022, J.P. Crawford cooled down in a big way at the plate. The end of his season was especially poor, with the 2020 Gold Glover hitting just .185, including just .083 over his final eight games.

He worked two walks in the series opener on Friday, but didn’t have any hits or runs scored. And while he had just one hit in five ABs on Saturday, it was the play of the game along with Frazier’s double.

With two outs in the eighth inning and facing star Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano, Crawford blooped a ball into center field, landing between three Toronto defenders (and causing a collision) to clear the bases. That double tied the game at 9-9 and sucked the air out of a previously-raucous Rogers Centre.

Crawford’s 2022 season, kind of like Frazier’s, was mostly a disappointment, especially on the heels of his contract extension. But if there was ever a time for a well-placed Crawford blooper, it was in the eighth inning Saturday.

Cal “Big Dumper” Raleigh

Cal Raleigh didn’t go yard in Game 2 like he did in Game 1, but the young catcher was on base four times, drove in a run and scored three times, including the game-winner in the ninth inning.

Raleigh came to the plate with one out and laced a screaming line drive into right-center field off Romano. Mitch Haniger didn’t pick Raleigh up but Frazier did the next at-bat.

I’ve written about it before, but Raleigh is maybe the biggest unsung hero on this Mariners team period. And he certainly has shown a knack for coming through in huge moments.

Last Friday was the walkoff to end the drought. This Friday was the two-run, gut punch home run in the first inning that silenced Blue Jays fans. And Saturday was just Raleigh showing how calm he can be in big moments throughout the game, both at and behind the plate.

Raleigh going from an early-season demotion to leading all MLB catchers in home runs and hitting fourth for a Mariners playoff team is quite the story. And based on what we’ve seen in recent weeks, it’s just getting started.

Eugenio Suárez

Suárez is similar to Raleigh in that he doesn’t garner the most attention on this Mariners team, but he’s a heartbeat guy who has been one of their best and most valuable players, leading the team in home runs and RBIs this year.

Mr. Good Vibes Only took that steady approach to Toronto, picking up four hits, two RBIs and scoring three runs while playing very good defense at the hot corner. He and Raleigh scored on Carlos Santana’s three-run shot in the sixth inning (more on him in a second) that cut Toronto’s lead to 8-5. He then doubled in the eighth and scored on a Raleigh single, making it 9-6 Toronto.

Suárez and Raleigh were huge in driving the Mariners’ 4-0 Game 1 win and getting the team back in Saturday’s game and ultimately winning the whole thing.

Good Vibes Only, indeed.

Carlos Santana

Game 1 wasn’t a great day for the Mariners player with the most postseason experience, but Santana’s three-run shot was the big hit Seattle needed to get back into Saturday’s game.

Down 8-2, Santana blasted a big homer to left field. This was after he missed a home run by mere inches to right-center earlier in the game, having to settle for a double.

Santana has had some monster moments for the Mariners since he came over via trade, and he’s been especially clutch against the Blue Jays. He hit three homers off them in a July sweep and now adds this postseason blast to his résumé.

The man who invented the M’s victory dance has a great reason to be dancing this weekend.

MLB’s Morosi: Mariners’ Carlos Santana will be an important player in playoffs

Andrés Muñoz

Andrés Muñoz was diabolical on Friday, recording the final five outs and striking out two in the 4-0 win.

With Seattle’s bullpen taxed on Saturday, manager Scott Servais again rolled with his flamethrower and boy, did he deliver.

Facing the top of Toronto’s lineup, Muñoz worked a scoreless eighth inning just after the M’s tied things up at 9-9.

The right-handed heavy Blue Jays got two baserunners of Muñoz this series, but it didn’t matter as he overall dominated the matchup, showing why Servais has so much confidence in the 23-year-old right-hander. Muñoz’s outing was especially critical given Seattle’s other top reliever, Sewald, got just two outs in the fifth inning and allowed a season-high four runs.

And a quick shoutout to rookie George Kirby, who worked a scoreless ninth inning to end Game 2. That was not just his first career playoff appearance, it was his first career relief appearance! He did walk a batter, but the stuff looked good and he had some competitive misses. If he continues to work out of the ‘pen, he could be a special weapon.

Luis Castillo

Luis Castillo. “La Piedra.” All-Star. Assassin.

The Mariners’ trade for Castillo ahead of this year’s traded deadline already looked wonderful given he was stellar in his starts and signed a long-term extension to stay in Seattle.

And then Friday happened.

I wrote about it Friday, but his outing deserves more praise.

Luis Castillo does the nearly impossible as Mariners silence Blue Jays

Castillo flat-out dominated the Blue Jays. They barely hit him hard, he worked ahead, he generated a ton of weak contact and he got into the eighth inning. He never let Jays fans get involved in that game, and it made Saturday’s game so much more important for Toronto.

Castillo’s next start will likely come Thursday in Game 2 of the ALDS against Houston. That’s worth noting as Castillo hasn’t pitched against the Astros since coming to the Mariners as their season series was just wrapping up when he joined the team.

Houston has had Seattle’s number in recent seasons, including this year, but it will be very fun to see Castillo try and follow up what he did in Toronto.

THAT is why front-line pitching is so important.

Recap: Mariners erase big deficit, sweep Blue Jays with 10-9 win

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