Castillo quickly draws Félix comps: 'This guy is a dude'

Newest Mariner lifts Seattle to first series win vs. Yankees since 2016

August 3rd, 2022

NEW YORK -- Scott Servais was two weeks into his first season as Mariners manager when Seattle last won a series against the Yankees in April 2016, and he wasn’t around when their last generational pitcher was in his prime.

That’s what made his postgame commentary on Luis Castillo’s masterful Mariners debut, a 7-3 victory at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, resonate a little louder.

"I wasn't the manager here during the vintage Félix Hernández days, but kind of looking at Félix when he was coming through in his heyday, that's what it reminded me of today.” Servais said. “This guy is a dude."

Fueled by the adrenaline of pitching in front of 42,169 fans, in a matinee matchup against five-time All-Star Gerrit Cole -- and most of all, being in a postseason push with his new team -- Castillo dazzled.

The two-time All-Star came one out shy of completing the seventh inning, surrendering a tough grounder just past first baseman Carlos Santana and a two-run homer to Kyle Higashioka that ended his day. Before that sequence, he’d given up just three hits and one run while striking out eight, making him the Mariners’ first midseason acquisition with that many strikeouts in his first start since Andy Benes had nine in 1995, 27 years ago to the day.

The early returns of the Mariners’ biggest Trade Deadline deal in the Jerry Dipoto era were significant -- and a sign of what could be in store in October.

“I've only been here two days, but what I can tell from these guys is that they're playing to win,” Castillo said through an interpreter. “So yeah, of course, I'm feeling that energy."

Castillo, who won in the Bronx with Cincinnati last month, was most prominently linked to the Yankees ahead of the Deadline before Seattle packaged three of its top five prospects in its deal. Was he aware of that buzz?

“In my mind, yes, because they were one of the teams that was very interested in me,” Castillo said. “But I'm here with the Mariners now, and I've just got to keep moving forward. And now I'm here to take this team as far as I can."

His new teammates are happy to have him. Here’s some reaction from around the clubhouse:

Shortstop J.P. Crawford: “The guy’s stuff is electric. He throws a Wiffle ball up there. The guy throws changeup and 99 [mph] with that type of movement, it's just safe to say it looks a lot better than blue and red. It's huge. The type of pitcher he is, everyone knows what he brings to the table, and just adding that arm to the arsenal that we already had, it's like, we're setting a statement here.”

Left fielder Jesse Winker: “For Luis, just playing with him for so long, I don't think there's a moment that he's not prepared for. He's not afraid of any lineup and any situation that's kind of thrown his way. He just pitches. ... He’s just nails.”

Servais: “I couldn't be any more excited about what he's going to bring to our ballclub. The stability, taking the ball every fifth day and the confidence, the stuff and pitching in this environment.”

It was shaping up to be MLB’s must-watch pitchers’ duel of the day, pitting Castillo against the five-time All-Star Cole. Yet the Mariners ambushed Cole for three homers before Castillo took the mound, creating a six-run cushion to help cap a challenging road trip against the AL’s two best teams on a high note. 

“We set a tone in this series, and I think we're only going to get hotter,” Crawford said. “I think we're going to take this series and run with it. We've got them at our place too, and that's going to be electric as well."

The early run support came via homers from Eugenio Suárez, Carlos Santana and Jarred Kelenic, marking the first time since May 2, 2002, that Seattle hit at least three home runs in the opening frame. That day against the White Sox, Bret Boone and Mike Cameron went back-to-back twice in the first, and Cameron hit two more later to complete his epic four-homer performance.

For a Mariners team that was without Ty France and Julio Rodríguez this series due to wrist injuries and did not add a big bat at the Deadline, these games in the Bronx were big. They’ll host the Yankees in Seattle next week, but after that, they have just 15 games remaining against teams at or above .500.

They didn’t get Juan Soto on Tuesday, or another impact bat, and maybe it’ll bite them. But the guy they went all-in on showed why he was so coveted with an imposing first impression.