The Seattle Mariners played in their first postseason game since 2001 on Friday, defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 4-0 (box score) to stake out a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three American League Wild Card Series.
Here are four things to know about the Mariners’ victory, which leaves them a win away from advancing to the League Division Series against the Houston Astros.
Seattle struck early
If you thought the Mariners would be apprehensive in the early going as they engaged in postseason baseball for the first time in two decades, well, so much for that.
Seattle super rookie Julio Rodríguez, the third youngest rookie in AL history to bat leadoff in a playoff game, was hit by a pitch to lead off the game. He’d advance to second base on a groundout before scoring on a Eugenio Suárez double. Suárez’s double plated the first first-inning run scored against Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah in 16 starts at home this season, according to MLB.com’s Daniel Kramer.
The Mariners weren’t done there, either. Cal Raleigh subsequently swatted a two-run homer to give Seattle a 3-0 lead before the Blue Jays had a chance to bat. By the time the top of the first inning concluded, the Mariners had a 75 percent win expectancy.
Castillo cruises; Manoah scuffles
To Manoah’s credit, he did pitch better after that lengthy first inning. Indeed, he escaped another jam in the second inning before retiring nine consecutive batters.
Manoah surrendered another run in the fifth inning (Rodríguez crossed the plate again, this time on a fielder’s choice), allowing Seattle to take a 4-0 lead, but he finished his afternoon with a line consisting of 5 2/3 innings pitched, four runs on four hits and a walk, and four strikeouts.
It wasn’t the kind of dominant performance the Blue Jays have grown accustomed to receiving from Manoah, but it could’ve been a lot worse based on how the early innings unfolded.
Manoah’s counterpart, Luis Castillo, comparatively had himself a breezy afternoon at the office. In what served as just his second career postseason start (and his first since 2020), he threw 7 1/3 shutout innings on 108 pitches.
Castillo sprinkled six hits over the course of those seven innings, stranding a pair of runners in both the third and fifth innings. He didn’t walk anyone, though he did hit George Springer in the wrist with a pitch before departing in the eighth. He struck out five batters and coerced ground balls on 10 of his 17 batted balls.
First Mariners playoff victory since 2001
As noted in the introduction, the Mariners snapped the majors’ longest active playoff drought on Friday, appearing in their first playoff game since October 22, 2001.
The Mariners’ most recent playoff win prior to Friday occurred on October 20, 2001. For perspective, the winning pitcher in that game was Jamie Moyer and the Mariners’ lineup featured Brett Boone, David Bell, and Jay Buhner, not to mention Ichiro Suzuki and Edgar Martinez.
Next: Game 2 Saturday
The Mariners can punch their ticket to the League Division Series against the Houston Astros on Saturday with a victory in Game 2. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, can keep their own advancement aspirations alive with a win that would force Game 3 on Sunday.
Robbie Ray, a former Blue Jay and the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, is expected to get the nod for the Mariners. Toronto figures to counter with Kevin Gausman.
Game 2 is scheduled to start at 4:07 p.m. ET.