BRANDON GUSTAFSON

‘One of the best in the game’: Luis Castillo dazzles for Mariners on opening day

Mar 30, 2023, 10:34 PM

Mariners Luis Castillo...

Luis Castillo of the Seattle Mariners reacts against the Cleveland Guardians on March 30, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners had a number of stars in their 3-0 opening day win over the Cleveland Guardians, but as was the case all of last year, Seattle’s starting pitching was key to victory.

Recap: France’s homer in 8th rallies Mariners to win over Guardians

Making his first opening day start as a member of the Mariners, Luis Castillo was dominant, spinning six scoreless innings against the Guardians.

That line alone may be impressive, but Castillo was even more dominant than it may appear.

Castillo allowed just one hit over those six innings, striking out six without walking or hitting a batter. Castillo retired the last 12 batters he faced, and needed just 76 pitches to work six scoreless innings.

Of those 76 pitches, 59 were strikes, good for a 77.6% strike rate. Additionally, Castillo faced just 19 batters and fired 15 first-pitch strikes, which is 78.9%. Guardians batters were obviously having a hard time with the manned dubbed “La Piedra,” or “The Rock,” and only had five hard-hit balls (95+mph exit velocity) off him.

“You really can’t say enough about him,” Mariners first baseman Ty France said postgame. “He comes out, gets the ball every five days and you know what you’re gonna get from him.”

“He’s one of the best in the game, if not the best, in my opinion,” France later said. “So for him to do what he’s been doing since he’s been here, I’m not surprised. But it’s really cool to play behind.”

Castillo ended last year on a strong note, turning in two great playoff outings for the M’s. Between those two starts and Thursday night, he has a 1.33 ERA, 12 hits allowed, 18 strikeouts, no walks and one hit batter over his last 20 1/3 innings pitched.

Seattle’s No. 1 starter had a bit of a scare in the third inning when Will Brennan hit a line drive right back at him. It wound up hitting Castillo in the side of his head, partly in his hair. Castillo stayed in the game, then struck out the next three he faced and retired the final 12 he saw.

“Obviously the adrenaline’s pumping out there, but he never wavered and stayed in the game, continued to do his thing,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Just an excellent outing by him.”

Having that kind of bounceback from a scary moment didn’t surprise Servais.

“It really doesn’t with The Rock. I mean, he is The Rock, and he is some kind of consistent,” he said. “His demeanor, his confidence and belief in his stuff and what he does out there, it’s exactly the type of guy you want leading your pitching staff.”

For Castillo, getting the ball in the Mariners’ first game of the year was a big deal.

“It meant a lot,” he said through an interpreter. “… We came here to put on a show for the fans, and you can tell the fans were having a good time. We played good ball and I felt like we came out there to do our job and it was a good game.”

Castillo pitched against Cleveland in exhibition games this spring, and that didn’t have any impact on Thursday’s outing, Castillo said.

“You go to spring training and for me, it’s preparation. Once we come here to the regular season and someone says ‘play ball,’ it’s a different adrenaline, it’s a different game,” he said. “I’m going to give my all regardless of what team I’m facing.”

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