Muñoz pumps 102.5 mph gas right by Manny

Hard-throwing righty fans former teammate in key sequence to seal sweep

July 6th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Mariners continued their recent surge toward .500 in typical fashion Tuesday afternoon -- stingy starting pitching, complementary players stepping up and a healthy dose of Julio Rodríguez.

But sometimes one moment stands out among the many moments that add up to a win. Andrés Muñoz vs. Manny Machado was such a moment.

The Mariners downed the Padres, 6-2, to sweep a two-game stopover at Petco Park, their fifth straight series victory and their seventh win in the past eight games. The Mariners moved within a game of .500, at 41-42.

Muñoz and his 102.5 mph fastball helped get them there.

“Lights out,” manager Scott Servais said.

The game hung in the balance when Servais tabbed the right-hander with two runners on base and one out in the sixth inning. A sacrifice fly by C.J. Abrams had cut Seattle’s lead to 4-2 before Muñoz walked Jurickson Profar to bring Machado to the plate as the potential go-ahead run.

Machado is 3-for-19 since returning from injury, but he’s still the most dangerous hitter in the Padres’ lineup -- the last guy you want to make a mistake against. Anybody with a scouting report -- let’s face it, anybody with access to a TV -- knows that. Muñoz certainly does after spending a season and a half as Machado’s teammate in San Diego.

“Mixing my pitches against him was a key,” Muñoz said, with bench coach Manny Acta serving as interpreter. “I tried to be less predictable.”

Here’s how the pivotal at-bat went:

• 93 mph slider down and away: Taken for a ball, 1-0 count
• 91 mph slider below the knees and dropped: Swing and miss, 1-1 count
• 89.9 mph slider down the heart of the plate: Popped foul on the third-base side, 1-2 count
• 102.5 mph fastball elevated in the strike zone on the outside corner: Swing and miss, inning over

“Muñoz has a really good slider,” Servais said. “He also throws 102 mph. He threw him three sliders. Even on the bench, I was saying, ‘We need a heater right here.’ He was starting to time him up. Then you throw that fastball up in the zone like that, it’s almost an impossible pitch to hit. It’s also very hard to lay off. … Muñoz has a special arm, no question about it.”

As Servais played the part of “Major League” manager Lou Brown, starting pitcher Logan Gilbert watched with gratitude. Gilbert battled through 5 1/3 innings and handed over a 4-1 lead to Muñoz in the sixth, despite allowing six hits and three walks.

“Muñoz picking me up … that was amazing,” Gilbert said.

Muñoz said pitching against his former club didn’t give him extra motivation. However, he did briefly throw his hands in the air to celebrate his strikeout of Machado before taking a deserved strut off the mound.

The 23-year-old’s primary motivation, he said, is to continue to be among the many contributing to the team’s success. Muñoz’s results haven’t always matched his stuff, but the two have melded together more often of late. He has allowed no earned runs over his past nine appearances while striking out 23 batters in 11 1/3 innings.

“I tried to keep learning from the mistakes I’ve made in the past,” Muñoz said. “I’m enjoying it right now, but I’m not going out there and thinking I’ve had three, four good outings in a row. I’m trying to have the same attitude every outing.”

With the key moment breaking Seattle’s way, Gilbert equaled the MLB lead with 10 wins. Nos. 8-9 hitters Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty combined for five hits and four RBIs, with Haggerty connecting on a 109 mph home run -- the hardest hit of his career. The bottom four batters in the order -- Abraham Toro, Adam Frazier, Moore and Haggerty -- each scored at least one run.

Rodríguez checked in with a highlight-reel play, a sliding catch in shallow center field in the seventh inning. He also had two hits and his 21st stolen base.

More games like this and reaching .500 no longer will be a Mariners goal. It will be an achievement.

“We were down and out, so to speak, and we clawed our way back with a bunch of guys that just like to play baseball,” Servais said. “It hasn’t been pretty many days.”