Mariners Takeaways: A historic weekend for starting rotation

Jun 2, 2024, 8:32 PM | Updated: Jun 3, 2024, 8:04 am

Seattle Mariners Bryce Miller Angels 2024...

Seattle Mariners starter Bryce Miller pitches against the Angels on June 1. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners brought out the brooms this weekend.

After taking three of four from the Houston Astros earlier in the week, Seattle completed a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday to move a season-best seven games over .500. In the process, the Mariners’ starting rotation accomplished a bit of franchise history and their sputtering offense put together perhaps its best series of the season. Seattle has won seven of its past eight games and remains atop the AL West at 34-27, holding a four-game lead over the Texas Rangers and a 7.5-game advantage over the Astros.

Here are three observations on the Mariners following their second sweep of the season.

Starting rotation achieves another historic milestone

Earlier this season, Seattle’s starting rotation strung together a historic run of 21 consecutive starts with two earned runs allowed or fewer. It was tied for the second-longest such streak in MLB history and the longest since the 1915 Washington Senators. This weekend, the Mariners’ rotation accomplished another piece of history. Seattle starters Bryan Woo, Bryce Miller and Luis Castillo combined to pitch 19 scoreless innings, which marked the first time in franchise history that Mariners starters didn’t allow a run in a series spanning three-plus games.

Woo started it off with six scoreless innings in Friday’s 5-4 win. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed just three hits and no walks in an efficient 66-pitch outing, which came after he skipped his mid-week bullpen session due to what manager Scott Servais termed as “arm stuff.” After beginning the season on the injured list with elbow inflammation, Woo has been lights-out since returning to the rotation. He has a 1.30 ERA and 0.58 WHIP in five starts, with 18 strikeouts and just two walks.

Miller followed with six scoreless innings in Saturday’s 9-0 rout. The 25-year-old right-hander struck out nine of the 21 batters he faced, while yielding just three hits and one walk. After a brilliant start to the season, Miller went through a rough stretch in May, giving up 15 earned runs in 23 1/3 innings over his first four starts of the month. But he seems to have recaptured his early success, yielding just two runs in 12 innings over his past two starts.

Castillo capped the weekend with seven shutout innings of two-hit ball in Sunday’s 5-1 win. Despite not having his best stuff, the 31-year-old ace struck out six batters and generated 21 whiffs, including 13 with his four-seam fastball. Castillo got off to an unusually rocky start this year, allowing four earned runs in each of his first three outings. But since then, he has been a model of consistency. Castillo has yielded two earned runs or fewer in 10 consecutive starts, while logging a 2.01 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over that stretch.

“Every day when I come to the ballpark, I feel like we’re gonna win,” Servais said. “Our starting pitching is gonna give us a chance. They’re gonna keep us in the game. Everyone in that room knows that we’re gonna have a chance to win every day.”

Offense benefitting from more ‘aggressive’ approach

After a rough first two months of the season at the plate, Seattle parted ways with offensive coordinator and bench coach Brant Brown on Friday. At that point, the Mariners were averaging just 3.6 runs per game, which ranked 29th out of 30 MLB teams. Despite taking three of four games from the Astros earlier in the week, the offensive struggles were glaring, as Seattle mustered a total of just nine runs in the four-game set.

During the weekend series against the Angels, Servais said there was an emphasis on “freeing things up” for the hitters and encouraging them to be more aggressive at the plate. It was only one series, and it came against an Angels pitching staff that’s among the worst in baseball, but the Mariners responded with perhaps their best three-game offensive stretch of the season. Seattle totaled 19 runs against the Angels and scored at least five runs in three consecutive games for the first time all season.

“We’re just freeing things up,” Servais said after Saturday’s game. “That’s been a point of emphasis here over the last couple days. Let’s free these players up and really focus on what they do well and play into their strengths. … Whatever you do and has allowed you to get to the big leagues and be successful at this level, let’s get back into doing that, and (be) less concerned about maybe what they’re firing at us or how they’re pitching us and things like that.”

J.P. Crawford had the signature moment of the weekend, belting a grand slam to open the floodgates in Saturday’s rout. But plenty of others contributed too. Ty France had a three-hit game on Friday, including a two-run double and the decisive solo home run in the eighth inning. Luke Raley homered in back-to-back games, with solo shots on Saturday and Sunday. Julio Rodríguez had a three-hit game Saturday. And Mitch Garver snapped an 0-for-20 slump with two hits on Sunday, including a three-run double that broke things open.

“I think we’re more aggressive,” Servais said after Sunday’s game. “We look like we’re attacking the baseball. We’re not so defensive at the plate. That’s what stands out for me. … I think up and down the lineup, guys just are more on the attack – (looking) to be a hunter instead of the hunted.”

Well-deserved off day before another long stretch

With their sweep of the Angels, the Mariners completed a season-long stretch of 17 consecutive games without a day off. Seattle went 10-7 over that span, rebounding from a 4-6 East Coast road trip with a 6-1 homestand this past week. But after an off day Monday, the Mariners begin another long stretch of 13 consecutive games without a day off. By the time they conclude that stretch on June 16, they will have played 43 games in 45 days.

A major key over the next two weeks will be whether Seattle’s bullpen can continue to hold up. The Mariners’ injury-depleted bullpen suffered yet another blow over the weekend, when left-handed reliever Gabe Speier landed on the 15-day injured list with a left rotator cuff strain. Seattle has already gone all season without two of its top relievers, with Matt Brash out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery and Gregory Santos sidelined with a lat strain until at least July. Lefty reliever Tayler Saucedo also missed three weeks with a hyperextended knee before returning last Tuesday.

Aside from a rough stretch against the heavy-hitting Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees on their last road trip, the Mariners’ bullpen has performed remarkably well in spite of all the injuries. Heading into Sunday, Seattle’s bullpen ranked third in the majors in WHIP (1.14), fifth in opponents’ batting average (.214) and 11th in ERA (3.66). But with another reliever on the IL and another lengthy run of consecutive games, the Mariners and their bullpen face another challenging stretch.

“It is really hard,” Servais said of playing 17 days in a row. “… We’re not done yet. We get an off day tomorrow. We jump on a plane later tomorrow afternoon, but we’ve gotta keep grinding. We’ve gotta keep doing this. It’s a marathon. It is not a sprint.”

More Seattle Mariners coverage

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• Why Seattle Mariners parted ways with offensive coordinator Brant Brown
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