Mariners Notebook: How Woo came up big; Kelenic’s other foot

Sep 13, 2023, 12:48 PM

Seattle Mariners Bryan Woo...

Bryan Woo of the Seattle Mariners reacts during a win over the Angels on Sept. 12, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Pitching has been the bedrock of the Seattle Mariners’ success in 2023, which is why their recent rough patch in the middle of a playoff race was so worrisome.

Start times for two Seattle Mariners playoff chase games changed

As the Mariners scuffled through a 4-8 stretch, their pitching – starters and relievers combined – struggled to keep opponents to five runs or less. Starters generally had trouble going deep into games, and a bullpen that has already been leaned on a lot this year looked especially taxed.

Needless to say, the M’s needed a good outing from rookie Bryan Woo on Tuesday night, and that’s precisely what they got.

Woo had been skipped in his previous turn in the rotation, the primary reason being that he’s already pitched far more this season (75 2/3 innings for the Mariners, plus 44 innings in Double-A) than ever before in his career (his previous career-high as a pro was 57 total innings last year). He’d also had a rough showing in his most recent start, allowing five earned runs on four hits, three walks and three hit batsmen on Sept. 4 at Cincinnati.

The eight days between starts paid off, as Woo was dominant in 5 2/3 scoreless innings Tuesday night, striking out eight while allowing just four hits and no free passes. Woo set the tone in the Mariners’ best performance of September so far, an easy 8-0 win over the Angels.

Recap: M’s blank Angels 8-0 to snap skid, gain ground in playoff race

“The key to the game was really Bryan Woo and his ability to control them,” manager Scott Servais said Wednesday to Rick Rizzs on the Mariners Radio Network pregame show. “He was really aggressive with his fastball, he had good stuff, he was in the strike zone early. It seemed like almost every hitter was 0-2, 1-2 last night, which (is a) credit to him, and we need that out of him. So the off days, the extra rest he had before that start certainly helped.”

Woo said after pitching the M’s to the win that the extra rest helped him not so much physically as mentally.

“It wasn’t like I was wasn’t feeling great or anything, it’s just that was what the plan was,” Woo told reporters. “But yeah, I mean, hard to say that it didn’t help. Kind of just gave me a little bit more clarity for this week of what I wanted to focus on. … All around, the preparation I think was was just simple, but it’s definitely what I needed.”

What does “clarity” mean in this instance? Rizzs asked Servais for his interpretation.

“I think, you know, his last start went a little rough for him, and he’s maybe trying to do too much,” Servais said. “(We) really focused on him (to) do what you do best, and that is throw your fastball over the plate, both fastballs, the four-seamer and the two-seamer. And then when you get a chance, you work in the off-speed pitches, but don’t get so consumed on maybe some of your extra pitches. Let’s just go with your best, and that’s he did last night and got great results.”

Simply put, Woo went into attack mode with his fastball sitting at 94-95 mph, and the Angels had trouble keeping up.

“Swing and miss or not, I think just being in the zone consistently just kind of puts pressure on them from the first pitch of the at-bat,” Woo said. “If you’re getting ahead, you’re in good counts, you know that you kind of always have the control in the at-bat, and I think that’s just kind of what leads to more swings and misses.”

Shortstop J.P. Crawford had maybe the best vantage point of Woo’s outing, and he was particularly impressed by what he saw.

“I told him today when he was done pitching that, ‘That was the best start I’ve ever seen you throw,'” Crawford told Mariners insider Shannon Drayer of Seattle Sports on Tuesday’s postgame show. “I was right behind him for more than half the batters. That fastball was just elevating. I’ve never seen a fastball like that, so that was really cool to see from him… His fastball tonight had a different level of zip. It was cool.”

Shoe’s on Kelenic’s other foot

Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic made his long-awaited return from a fractured foot on Monday night, but he was out of the lineup both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Drayer: With eyes opened, Mariners’ Kelenic makes his return

The reason? His foot. But take a deep breath. While it was his left foot that just healed, he actually has a sore right foot now, a result of fouling a pitch off it on Monday (watch here).

Mike Lefko of Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob has the information from T-Mobile Park:

With Kelenic resting his foot, Dominic Canzone received the start in left field for Wednesday’s 1:10 p.m. series finale against the Angels. Here’s the full M’s lineup:

Coverage is on Seattle Sports 710 AM and the Seattle Sports app. Click here for details on how to tune in the broadcast.

Seattle Mariners scoreboard watching

With a day game Wednesday and day off Thursday, the M’s will get to sit back and watch their competition in the playoff race for a bit.

The Mariners entered the day tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League’s third wild card, with both sitting at 80-65 on the season. The Texas Rangers (80-64) are a half-game ahead for the second wild card, while the Houston Astros (82-64) are 1 1/2 games up on Seattle for first place in the AL West.

Current MLB Standings: Division | Wild Card

Texas and Toronto will play at 4:07 p.m. both Wednesday and Thursday, whereas Houston will try to avoid being swept by the 46-99 Oakland Athletics at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday before getting Thursday off.

More on the Seattle Mariners

ESPN’s Jeff Passan weighs in on what Mariners’ George Kirby said
Luis Torrens returns to Mariners, O’Keefe to paternity list
Drayer: Kirby shows ‘better understanding’ after critical comments
Where Passan thinks Mariners stand in Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes
Morosi: Why is AL playoff picture ‘great news’ for Seattle Mariners?

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Mariners Notebook: How Woo came up big; Kelenic’s other foot