WYMAN AND BOB

Morosi: Something ‘says a lot’ about Mariners closer Andrés Muñoz

May 16, 2024, 2:59 PM | Updated: May 17, 2024, 2:10 pm

Seattle Mariners Andres Munoz Royals 2024...

Seattle Mariners closer Andrés Muñoz celebrates a game-ending strikeout against the Royals on May 15. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Not many teams call on their closers for a five-out save this early in the season, but that’s exactly what the Seattle Mariners asked of Andrés Muñoz in Wednesday’s rubber match against the Royals.

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With Seattle clinging to a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning and Kansas City threatening with runners on second and third, Muñoz came in and put out the fire. The 25-year-old right-hander induced Royals star Bobby Witt Jr. into a groundout and escaped the jam by striking out No. 3 hitter Vinnie Pasquantino with a 100 mph fastball.

Muñoz faced another jam in the ninth, with Kansas City putting runners on the corners with a leadoff double by Salvador Perez and a throwing error by third baseman Luis Urías. Once again, Muñoz was unfazed. He sealed the victory with two more punchouts, including a game-ending 99 mph fastball to secure the series win.

Shortly after the game, MLB Network insider Jon Morosi heaped praise on Muñoz during an appearance on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob.

“Going more than three outs for a save in May – you don’t often see (that),” Morosi said. “For (manager) Scott Servais, he probably said, ‘Listen, we’ve got a day off coming, we’ve got a tough road trip coming up, we’ve gotta bank this win.’ For (Muñoz) to come in in the eighth … and close it out I think says a lot about how important this series was, and also how good he’s feeling. Because as a closer, you’re not going four or five outs in May unless you’re feeling really good.”

Muñoz has been lights out of late, tossing 11 scoreless innings over his past nine appearances. He has allowed just three hits and one walk over that span, while racking up 13 strikeouts and a 35.1% strikeout rate.

Muñoz’s dominance is helping offset a massive void in Seattle’s depleted bullpen, which has been without its two other top relievers. Hard-throwing right-hander Matt Brash is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last week, while hard-throwing lefty Gregory Santos will likely remain sidelined with a lat issue until at least July. The Mariners also are without lefty reliever Tayler Saucedo, who is on the 15-day injured list with a hyperextended knee.

With the bullpen shorthanded, Muñoz has taken on a larger workload. He has an MLB-leading four saves of four-plus outs, including two five-out saves.

Muñoz had injury issues of his own last year, missing two months early in the season with a shoulder strain. Even after returning, he wasn’t nearly as effective as his spectacular first season with Seattle in 2022.

Muñoz sure looks like he’s back to full health now, though. According to Statcast data, he has an average velocity of 98.6 mph on his four-seam fastball this season, which ranks fifth in the majors, and his sinker’s 97.8 mph average velocity ranks fourth.

“As much as Mariners fans have been nervous with (relievers) being injured here in the last little while, I think to see Muñoz throwing the ball the way that he is is really reassuring,” Morosi said.

Listen to the full conversation with Jon Morosi on Wednesday’s Wyman and Bob in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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