Latin players driving force on Hispanic Heritage Day

September 15th, 2022

SEATTLE -- As the Mariners celebrated Hispanic Heritage Day at T-Mobile Park on Wednesday afternoon, it was fitting that the vessels behind their dominant 6-1 win over the Padres were most of their Latin-born players.

Here’s how each contributed to the victory that pushed Seattle to 80-62 and helped the club remain a half-game behind Toronto for the top AL Wild Card spot:

Luis Castillo
The righty carved through the Padres with elite movement on some of his fastest pitches of the season, dialing his four-seamer up to 100.1 mph and averaging 98.2 mph, more than a tick above his season mark. He twice worked out of jams with two runners on, including a third-inning sequence in which he was squeezed on a called ball four that was in the strike zone and wiped away a would-be strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play.

That proved no matter, as Castillo came back to punch out Manny Machado swinging. In total, he pitched six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts, four hits and the lone walk.

Castillo has been brilliant since being acquired ahead of the Trade Deadline, with 60 strikeouts for Seattle -- passing Cliff Lee (57) and Félix Hernández (55) for the most in Mariners history through a pitcher’s first eight outings with the club.
“A lot of us are Latinos, and to have those fans in the stands was very special to me,” Castillo said through team interpreter Freddy Llanos. “And for me, it kind of just kind of motivated me a little bit. Like I said, Hispanic Heritage Month is very important. Having all those people here helped me.”

Julio Rodríguez
Four innings before he became just the third rookie -- and first in their debut season -- to steal 25 bases and hit 25 homers, Rodríguez crushed the first pitch of the game from Mike Clevinger for a 385-foot homer into the visitors' bullpen that sent Seattle off and running.

“It’s definitely big, man,” Rodríguez said of the significance of the day. “I feel like we move this game. I feel like it’s definitely a big community, and I’m just happy that I’m a Dominican kid representing his country here in the United States.”

Over 12 games in September, Rodríguez is slashing .404/.481/.766 (1.247 OPS) after his 2-for-3 showing on Wednesday.

Eugenio Suárez
There might not be a hotter hitter in the game than Seattle’s slugging third baseman, who crushed his 31st homer via a sky-high 393-foot shot that carried for 6.4 seconds, two at-bats after Rodríguez went deep. Suárez now has 15 homers since Aug. 1, tied with AL MVP favorite Aaron Judge -- who has a whopping 57 this season -- for the most in MLB in that span.

“I know what I can do,” Suárez said. “I trust myself, and I just come here to enjoy the game and it doesn't matter the situation. ... Everybody knows that we’ve got a really good team. This is a special team, and like I said, I just trust myself and enjoy the game.”

Carlos Santana
After Rodríguez made history in the first, Santana crushed a massive three-run blast in the fifth that extended the Mariners’ lead to six runs and gave their pitching staff all the cushion they needed. 
“It’s a Latin day today, so we’re proud,” Santana said. “Especially for me, I’m thanking God every day for the opportunity to play here. The fans seeing me, watching me play baseball, it’s great -- especially a day like today. It’s a great day for all the Latin guys.”

Santana, who was teammates with Clevinger in Cleveland from 2016-17, put the finishing touches on the righty’s first career start of allowing three or more homers. 

“It’s just amazing to see,” Rodríguez said of all three homers being hit by Seattle’s Hispanic contingent. “We were just talking about it earlier. It was pretty amazing to do all of that with all of us.”

Andrés Muñoz
It wasn’t a high-leverage opportunity, but Seattle’s top reliever nonetheless closed the door with a hitless ninth inning that included two strikeouts. He now has 90 K’s this season and has struck out 39.8 percent of the batters he’s faced, both ranking second in MLB to only Edwin Díaz, the favorite to win the NL Reliever of the Year Award.