Woo's solid homecoming start helps get Mariners back on track

September 19th, 2023

OAKLAND -- As the Mariners kicked off their final road trip of the regular season, a two-city jaunt, their first stop also served as a homecoming for rookie right-hander .

Woo, who was born in Oakland and attended Alameda High a mere four miles down the road from the Coliseum, tossed five scoreless innings in Monday's series-opening 5-0 win, helping his team get back on track after getting swept by the Dodgers last weekend.

  • Games remaining (12): at OAK (2), at TEX (3), vs. HOU (3), vs. TEX (4)
  • Standings update: Since the Mariners (82-68) do not currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rangers (82-68), they remain out of the third AL Wild Card spot. Seattle is 1 1/2 games behind the Astros (84-67) for the AL West lead.
  • Tiebreakers: Win vs. Houston (8-2); losing vs. Texas (1-5); likely win vs. Toronto (3-3, tiebreaker based on intradivision record).

As Woo and four Mariners relievers combined to blank Oakland, they secured Seattle's franchise-record 16th shutout victory of the season.

"I think it's just consistently doing the little things right," Woo said of the team effort. "You don't really try to go out and throw shutouts; it's more of just continuing to do the little things right, consistently showing up and doing our work, and making sure that we're harping on what we need to do every single day."

With the Mariners on the heels of a tough 2-4 homestand, the ongoing three-game set against the last-place A's is an invaluable opportunity to reset before their final stretch to lock down a postseason berth.

But manager Scott Servais warned before the game that a club like Oakland -- whose players have tons to prove for the future and nothing left to lose at present -- can be "dangerous." The A's recently split a four-game set with the Rangers and took two of three from the Astros, proving that even as a non-contender, their influence will be felt in the American League West race.

The Mariners have dominated the A's, winning 10 of 11 meetings in 2023. The key, Servais said, has been pitching them well, and that trend continued with another solid start from Woo. Working around a season-high four walks and three hits, the 23-year-old right-hander tossed five scoreless frames on 86 pitches (53 strikes), racking up six punchouts in the process.

It wasn't Woo's first time pitching in a big league game in the Bay Area, as he tossed six innings of two-run ball against the team he grew up rooting for at Oracle Park on July 3. But he was more aware of his family and friends among the 4,972 in attendance at the Coliseum on Monday.

"San Francisco, I think, it was pretty packed. It kind of blended in," Woo said. "Here, they kind of stood out. I tried to do my best to just kind of focus on what I needed to do and do my job."

Woo navigated traffic on the basepaths in all but one inning and twice managed to strand a runner on third base. In the bottom of the fourth, Woo allowed back-to-back two-out singles that gave him runners on the corners, but he responded by striking out A's nine-hole hitter Nick Allen on three pitches.

When Allen swung through a sinker that drifted inside to end the inning, Woo leapt off the mound in a celebratory -- yet controlled -- display of emotion.

"I do some dumb hops. I don't know why I do it, but it just happens randomly," Woo said. "Obviously, the team has been struggling a little bit here as of late and coming down the stretch. Every game means a lot, every win means a lot, so I just kind of think that was the emotion coming out there."

The Mariners' offense, which was handily shut down by the Dodgers over the weekend, showed some positive signs, highlighted by a two-run moonshot off the bat of in the fourth inning that was both the longest home run (437 feet) and hardest-hit ball (108.4 mph) of his career, per Statcast.

The bottom half of Seattle's order provided a much-needed spark, with the Nos. 6-9 batters combining for five hits and four runs scored.

"It's critical for us, here on this road trip and for the remainder of the season," Servais said. "We need contributions from everybody. … Those guys grinded. They don't get a lot of opportunities, but when they do, they gotta be ready. And they were ready tonight."

Caballero, who was still buzzing from his first homer since June 28 after the game, admitted that he couldn't help but look at the out-of-town scoreboards every now and then, just to stay aware of what was going on. With the Astros and Rangers falling in their respective series openers, the Mariners' win proved even more significant.

"Every night is a good night to win," Caballero said, "but it's much better whenever we can take half a game or a full game out of the standings."