Blue Jays 3, Mariners 2
(Toronto, ON) After a gut punch to end the series in Philadelphia, the Seattle Mariners headed north of the border for what was sure to be an electric crowd in Toronto to open up a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays. A rematch of the 2022 AL Wild Card Series started off with a rematch of the game one pitching matchup as Luis Castillo took on Alek Manoah. Neither ace had their best stuff on Friday but neither offense could really make them pay. In a battle of bullpens, one little slip up is all Toronto needed as the Mariners dropped their third consecutive one run game losing the opener 3-2.
After a nice moment in the top of the 1st when the Toronto faithful gave former Blue Jay Teoscar Hernandez a standing ovation in his return to the Rogers Centre, the catchers stole the spotlight. In the top of the 2nd, Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh landed the first shot of the game. Just like he did in game one of the Wild Card Series, Raleigh got the better of Manoah. A solo home run to right field for his third home run of the season was a serious case of déjà vu as Seattle grabbed a 1-0 lead. It looked like they would be able to get more with the bases loaded and one out, but the struggles for Ty France continued as he hit into an inning ending double play to keep the lead at just one.
Toronto’s All-Star catcher got his day going in the bottom of the 2nd. Alejandro Kirk broke out in 2022 just like Cal Raleigh and while 2023 hasn’t been so friendly to Kirk, Friday night was his night. Kirk sent a Luis Castillo sinker 401-feet to left center for his second home run of the season. The solo blast knotted things right back up at 1-1. A two out rally ensued for Toronto as Brandon Belt walked and Whit Merrifield doubled to put runners on second and third. Kevin Kiermaier smoked what looked like a go ahead base hit to left center. J.P. Crawford had other ideas. At full extension, Crawford robbed Kiermaier of the hit and threw out the former Tampa Bay Ray at first to end the inning and keep the game tied at 1-1 in what is one of the early nominees for play of the year.
Round two between Raleigh and Manoah would take place in the top of the 3rd and yet again the Mariner catcher got the better of the Toronto ace. With Jarred Kelenic on second after a single and a stolen base and Eugenio Suarez on first after a walk, Raleigh stepped up to the plate with one out. Cal smoked a grounder through the right side of the infield for a base hit. Kelenic had more than enough speed to score giving Raleigh his second RBI of the game and giving the M’s a 2-1 lead.
A quick response by Toronto killed that momentum. Again, with two outs and the bases empty, the M’s ran into problems. A walk to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. seemed harmless until a rejuvenated Matt Chapman made Castillo pay. Chapman smoked one over the head of Julio Rodriguez and short hopped the wall in center field. It looked like the M’s might have a play on Guerrero at the plate but the difference maker was with two outs he ran on contact. That little head start as enough for him to score on Chapman’s 12th double of the season to even the score at 2-2.
Both teams left runners stranded in the next couple of innings as both teams turned to their bullpens. In the bottom of the 6th, Trevor Gott came on for Seattle. He’d give up a leadoff single to Alejandro Kirk but followed that up by striking out Brandon Belt and getting Whit Merrifield to hit into a fielder’s choice. Two outs once again signaled trouble for Seattle. Gott hit Kevin Kiermaier to put runners on first and second and Toronto made him pay. George Springer lined a base hit to center field and Merrifield has good enough speed as he scored from second to give the Blue Jays their first lead at 3-2.
That would be it for the game. Seattle could not get anything going against the Toronto bullpen. The Blue Jays bullpen retired all 12 batters they faced and the Mariners ended the game with 15 straight batters retired. Kolten Wong looked like he’d extend the game in the top of the 9th with two outs, but had a hit taken away by Whit Merrifield to give Toronto a 3-2 win.
The series continues on Saturday at 12:07pm as Seattle (11-15) will have their hands full in a tough pitching matchup. Easton McGee will make his 2023 debut and just the second appearance of his major league career. McGee was called up as Diego Castillo was optioned to Tacoma on Saturday. Toronto (17-9) gives the ball to Kevin Gausman (2-2, 2.84 ERA) who has been their best pitcher early on this season.
- Cal Raleigh- 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R
- Julio Rodriguez- 2-3, 2B, HBP
- Luis Castillo (ND)- 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO
- Alejandro Kirk- 3-4, HR, RBI, R
- Matt Chapman- 2-4, 2B, RBI
- Alek Manoah (ND)- 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO