SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer’s Mariners Notebook: Brash and Muñoz step up in bullpen, more

Aug 5, 2023, 12:53 PM

Seattle Mariners...

Matt Brash of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by Tom Murphy after a 9-7 win against the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 4, 2023. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Three hours before the Seattle Mariners’ Friday game against the Angels, the door to the manager’s office in the visiting clubhouse was closed for the better part of an hour. When the door opened, the pitching coaches, bullpen coach and coordinator of advanced scouting emerged.

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Pitching meetings to plot out bullpen usage for that day are held each day, but this one seemed longer. And that makes sense as we’re now post-deadline without the near-automatic Paul Sewald, who was able to take the ball just about every time it was needed now wearing a Diamondbacks uniform. Andrés Muñoz and Matt Brash, the top leverage arms remaining, need to be handled differently.

“These young guys are going to get experience,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “That’s where we’re at. I don’t want to run anybody into the ground. Muni was down tonight, so Brash steps up and was able to get it done.”

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Brash and Muñoz shined while getting experience in Anaheim with Muñoz striking out the side in Thursday’s comeback win and Brash wobbling at the start of his save opportunity only to come back and strikeout Shohei Ohtani, the potential game-winning run, on three pitches before wrapping up his second career save.

“It was a huge confidence boost for him. He’s electric,” said Servais of Brash following the win. “He’s got great stuff. I know that’s what (catcher) Tom Murphy said to him: ‘There’s nobody we would rather have on the mound right now going after (Ohtani). Go get it done.”

Muñoz in his first save opportunity since the departure of Sewald left no doubt he was ready to take on more at the end of ballgames, striking out the side Thursday in the ninth while throwing just two 4-seam fastballs, relying on his slider and 2-seamer to get the job done. While he has not been quite as electric this season coming off two separate injuries, pitching coach Pete Woodworth sees Muñoz ready to take on more.

“From the second Muni showed up, we knew he was going to be the guy,” Woodworth said. “It was just a matter of time until he realized that he can be that guy. And it’s easy to say when you’re looking at a 101 mph fastball and his slider, but it takes time for guys to realize that and sometimes it takes, you know, a push into the deep end. Sometimes it takes a Sewald leaving or Diego (Castill0) not being here anymore for a guy to look around and say, ‘OK, like, now it is my time,’ and that’s what it’s kind of looked like.”

“Sometimes it takes a while for guys to really believe and trust that their stuff is better than anybody that steps in the box,” Woodworth added. “And even though you throw 100, sometimes it takes a little bit. So that’s been the journey for Muni is to really believe and trust that he is one of the best throwers on the planet.”

Belief is key for any pitcher who is handed a ball in the ninth inning with a win for the entire organization in his hands. For the better part of three years, the Mariners had that role locked down. Now they go in a different direction.

“That would have been Paul,” Servais admitted Friday night. “Paul would have been out there. But we are not there anymore, so it gives opportunities to the younger guys. I love seeing young guys take it and run with it and see them grow. It’s very gratifying for our pitching coaches, for me, our entire team.”

Geno feeling the Good Vibes

Friday night was special for Eugenio Suárez as he recorded an RBI in his tenth straight game, breaking the club record set by Edgar Martinez in 1995.

As thrilled as he was with his individual achievement, Suárez is also excited by what he is seeing from the entire team that has posted one of the top winning percentages in baseball since July 1.

“I think the connection that we have right now, the conviction that we have a really good team, that we have a chance to make the playoffs again, that helped us to come here and fight to all 27 outs,” he said in his walkoff interview. “Right now we all connect together and we are happy to compete together. Everything is about ‘play better everyday’ and we’ve been doing that lately. I’m happy for our team right now and I’m happy to be part of that. No matter who we face, we come here to win the game.”

Better sooner?

Ty France’s solo shot home run in the first inning yielded the Mariners 500th run of the season when he crossed the plate.

How does that stack up to last year, you ask? Very well, thank you very much.

This year’s 500th run came in Game 110. The 2021 and 2022 teams scored their 500th runs in Game 120.

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