J-Rod draws intentional pass, makes Halos pay in finale win

September 14th, 2023

SEATTLE -- The Angels were not going to let  beat them on Wednesday afternoon, making an aggressive decision to work around the Mariners’ star center fielder at a critical moment ... and he wound up winning the battle anyway.

Rodríguez was intentionally walked by lefty José Suarez with two outs and Ty France on first base during the fifth inning. Halos manager Phil Nevin then brought in righty Jimmy Herget to face Cal Raleigh from his more productive side, and the switch-hitter dumped an RBI single into right field that scored France and tied the score at 2.

The red-hot Teoscar Hernández then punctuated the rally with an RBI knock that extended his on-base streak to 28 games, currently MLB’s longest, and scored Rodríguez -- pushing Seattle ahead for good en route to a 3-2 series-clinching victory.

  • Games remaining: vs. LAD (3), at OAK (3), at TEX (3), vs. HOU (3), vs. TEX (4)
  • Standings update: The Mariners (81-65) are a game ahead of Toronto (80-66) for the third AL Wild Card spot; the teams split the season series, 3-3. Seattle holds the next tiebreaker (intradivision) record, with a 26-13 mark against the AL West. (Toronto is 12-25 vs. the AL East.) The Mariners are 1 1/2 games behind the Astros (83-64) for the AL West lead, a half-game behind Texas (81-64).

What did Rodríguez make of the decision?

“Honestly, that they would rather face somebody else,” Rodríguez said. “I was ready to compete in that at-bat, but that's what they had for me.”

The decision to avoid Rodríguez quite literally came full circle as he rounded the bases, and for the second straight game, the Mariners did their most damage with two outs after plating seven in such sequences in Monday’s win.

“We stay fighting,” Rodríguez said. “If there are two outs, we don't give up on the inning. They've got to come through, and they've got to get that extra out. We don't play two outs. So I feel like that's kind of the whole mentality that we've got, that we're always competing. We don't give anything away.”

Prior to drawing his fourth intentional walk of the year, Rodríguez ripped a 104.5 mph double off the left-field wall in the third inning that scored Josh Rojas and put the Mariners on the board, extending his team lead with his 99th RBI. When he reaches 100, he’ll be the third player age-22 or younger in team history to do so, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (1991 and 92) and Alex Rodríguez (1996 and 1998).

For the series, Rodríguez went 7-for-12 with four RBIs, four runs scored, two doubles and an emphatic 10th-inning homer on Monday that thrust him into the rare 30-30 club.

“I realize Raleigh has been swinging it good, too, but Julio really has been one of the best in the game,” Nevin said. “I'm not going to let Julio beat us. I know exactly what the situation is coming up. ... It's whenever they don't work, they’re the wrong decision, right?”

Luis Castillo twirled six brilliant innings to continue his case for the AL Cy Young Award, and the Mariners have now won each of his past nine starts. “La Piedra” has thrown 17 quality starts, a mark also reached by George Kirby and Logan Gilbert; no other MLB team has three pitchers with more than 15. Castillo has recorded at least five innings in each of his 30 outings this year, most in MLB. 

“I’m always going to be ready,” Castillo said through an interpreter of his durability.

After Castillo departed, Justin Topa worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the seventh -- thanks in large part to his critical pickoff that caught Jordyn Adams in a rundown between third base for the second out. Then Matt Brash worked out of a two-on jam by tallying three strikeouts to reach 100, making him just the fifth reliever in franchise history with that many in a season, joining Bill Caudill (1982), J.J. Putz (2006), Edwin Díaz (2018) and Paul Sewald (2021).

Andrés Muñoz shut the door with his 13th save, capped by Raleigh cutting down speedster Brett Phillips attempting to steal second base for the 27th out. The backstop’s 83.6 mph throw was delivered with a 1.96 pop time, well above the 2.01 MLB average.

Raleigh has now thrown out five of 10 attempted basestealers since Sept. 5 -- including some of the game’s fastest players, such as Phillips, Elly De La Cruz and Josh Lowe. Before this stretch he had thrown out only 14 of 77.

“It's been a constant conversation, especially with the new rules -- holding runners and how much of an emphasis that is,” Raleigh said. 

The Mariners now head into their penultimate off-day before a huge weekend showdown against the NL West-leading Dodgers.