Castillo sharp, Mariners blank Blue Jays 4-0 in wild-card opener

Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game One
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TORONTO – The Seattle Mariners gave Luis Castillo a three-run lead before he threw his first pitch in Friday’s wild-card opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

It was all the support he would need, and more.

Castillo and Andres Munoz combined on a shutout, Cal Raleigh hit a two-run homer and the Mariners won in their first postseason game since 2001, beating the Blue Jays 4-0.

Eugenio Suarez had two hits and two RBIs and rookie Julio Rodriguez reached base three times and scored twice for the Mariners, who can wrap up the series with a win in Game 2 Saturday.

The series winner plays AL West champion Houston in the Division Series starting Tuesday in Texas.

Suarez hit an RBI double off Blue Jays All-Star right-hander Alek Manoah in the first inning and Raleigh followed with a drive to right.

“It was very good going out there and having that lead,” Castillo said through a translator. “That gives me that little extra energy when I go on the mound.”

Throwing two different kinds of fastballs at 100 mph and his changeup at 92 mph, Castillo scattered six singles in 7 /13 innings. He struck out five and walked none, facing the second-highest scoring team in the AL.

“When you’ve got two pitches over 99 that are doing two different things, that makes it tough,” Blue Jays infielder Whit Merrifield said.

Castillo, acquired in a midseason trade from Cincinnati, became the first pitcher in Mariners history to throw more than seven scoreless innings in a postseason start.

Raleigh said Castillo was “awesome.” Suarez called him “unbelievable.”

“Credit to Luis, he was in total command today,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.

The right-hander turned away from home plate and pumped his fist after fanning designated hitter Danny Jansen to end the seventh, Castillo’s third straight strikeout.

“Wow,” Servais said. “Some kind of performance by him.”

Castillo’s only other postseason start came with Cincinnati in 2020, when he lost to Atlanta in the wild-card round. Castillo allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings in that one but the Reds were eliminated with a 5-0 defeat.

Toronto has lost four straight postseason games and seven of their past eight.

“It’s two out of three,” Manoah said. “We’ll be back tomorrow.”

Munoz came on in the eighth after Castillo hit George Springer on the left wrist with his 108th pitch. Springer went down in pain and was checked by the trainer but remained in the game. X-rays on Springer were negative, interim manager John Schneider said.

Munoz finished the eighth by getting Bo Bichette to fly out and retiring Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on a grounder to shortstop.

Matt Chapman‘s two-out double in the ninth was Toronto’s seventh hit of the game, and first for extra bases. Munoz quickly closed out the Blue Jays.

Making his first career postseason start, Manoah gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings, matching the total he allowed in six September starts. Three of the four hits off him were for extra bases.

“They beat me on my mistakes,” a downcast Manoah said.

Manoah was in trouble right from the start, hitting Rodriguez on the hand with his fourth pitch of the game, and missing high and tight to Ty France with his fifth.

Rodriguez advanced on France’s grounder and scored on Suarez’s double to right. Raleigh followed with a 362-foot drive into the right field bullpen on a 3-2 fastball.

“An uncharacteristic first inning, to be sure,” Schneider said.

Raleigh is the first player in Mariners history to homer in his first career postseason at bat.

“Cal’s been on fire, not so much with hits but with homers,” Servais said.

Last Friday, Raleigh had a pinch-hit home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Oakland and clinch Seattle’s first postseason berth since 2001.

The early outburst drained much of the energy and excitement from a sellout crowd of 47,402 on hand for Toronto’s first home postseason game since the 2016 AL Championship Series.

Manoah hit Rodriguez for a second time in the fifth, and Seattle’s star newcomer made Toronto pay once more, advancing to third on France’s single to right and scoring on Suarez’s grounder.

Springer and Bichette hit back-to-back two-out singles off Castillo in the third but Guerrero flied out.

Merrifield and Springer reached on two-out singles in the fifth but Castillo got Bichette to ground out.

BLANKED

Toronto was shut out for the sixth time in its postseason history, and the second time at home. It was the second time the Mariners have held an opponent off the scoreboard in the playoffs. They also did it Oct. 10, 2000, against the Yankees.

HOW MANY?

Rodriguez thought the inning was over when Teoscar Hernandez grounded out to short for the second out in the fourth, running almost all the way from center field to the infield before realizing his mistake. Chapman flied out to Rodriguez in center to end the inning.

EDDIE GETS ‘EM READY

Former Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion threw out the first pitch. Encarnacion won the 2016 AL wild card game for Toronto with a home run in the 11th inning off Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jimenez.

UP NEXT:

The Mariners will start LHP Robbie Ray (12-12, 3.71 ERA) in Saturday’s Game 2. RHP Kevin Gausman (12-10, 3.35 ERA) starts for Toronto.

Ray won the 2021 AL Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays, going 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA and 248 strikeouts, then signed with Seattle. In his final five regular-season starts this season, Ray had a 5.27 ERA and allowed eight home runs in 27 1/3 innings.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.