Mariners beat Mets in finale, earn 1st road series win of season
NEW YORK – For an agonizing matter of seconds that felt like minutes, the entire focus of CitiField turned to first base umpire Chad Whitson and his decision.
For the Mets, it would be an improbable victory in front of packed crowd and another series win in an already successful season where they had yet to lose one.
For the Mariners, they were on the precipice of taking what might be one of their best wins of an up-and-down season and turning it into a catastrophic defeat that would likely linger for weeks. A walk ties the game. A hit probably ends it. And any sort of an out meant celebration.
With two outs and the bases loaded and the Mariners clinging to a one-run lead, Diego Castillo, the Mariners’ second pitcher used in a wild bottom of the ninth inning, fired a 3-2 slider to Pete Alonso. The pitch, which started near the bottom of the strike zone and on the outside corner, darted down and away from the Mets slugging first baseman, who made an attempt to swing at the pitch but then pulled the bat back quickly.
Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt did not move or say anything. Cal Raleigh, who had gloved the pitch in the dirt, looked back at Wendelstedt and then asked for an appeal to Whitson at first, which was granted.
Perhaps sensing the moment and anticipation, Whitson slowly clenched his fist and pumped his right arm violently, calling it a swinging strike three. It ended the Mets’ stunning rally in the drama-filled ninth and allowed the Mariners to escape New York with an 8-7 victory.
“I thought he went, but then nobody said anything,” Raleigh said. “I looked at first, and I was like, ‘He went, right? It was kind of like a standstill. When nobody said anything, I got a little nervous.”
Castillo, who operates with minimal outward emotion or excitement, wasn’t nervous on the mound.
“I saw the bat pretty much point at me,” Castillo said through reliever Sergio Romo. “I was pretty confident he went.”
In the dugout, manager Scott Servais believed Alonso went around, but he doesn’t take umpire accuracy as a given.
“If he doesn’t call him out there, I’m no longer in the game,” Servais said.
After dismal stretch of baseball that included a 4-12 record in the 16 games prior to this series in New York, the Mariners stunned the one of the best teams in baseball by taking two of three in the weekend series, beating Max Scherzer in the first game and Carlos Carrasco in the third game. It was Seattle’s first series win on the road.
“That was a very entertaining series, three one-run games though I would have preferred them not to be all one-run, but we’ll take it,” Servais said.
Sunday’s finale in perfect afternoon sunshine could’ve been a more comfortable Mariners win.
Thanks to an early two-run double from Mike Ford, a four-hit, five-times-on-base performance from Julio Rodriguez, which included a solo homer and a RBI single, and a mammoth two-run homer from Cal Raleigh, Seattle had an 8-5 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
However, Drew Steckenrider couldn’t close out the win. After retiring the first batter he faced, Steckenrider allowed a triple to Eduardo Escobar and three straight singles that scored two runs to make it to a one-run game.
With one out and runners on second and third, Servais turned to Castillo to stop the hemorrhaging. It was a move out of necessity and not popularity. The veteran right-hander has struggled of late, allowing nine runs on 10 hits with two walks while recording a combined three outs in three appearances.
But Castillo, who has pitched in high-tension sitiuations in the postseason, struck out Starling Marte for the second out of the inning.
With first base open, Servais decided to walk Francisco Lindor to load the bases for Alonso, who came into the game leading the National League with 29 RBIs. Given Castillo’s best pitch was a slider and his struggles with lefties, Servais decided the matchup was better against Alonso.
“We were trying to put the best matchup for Diego,” Servais said. “It’s not ideal to put the bases loaded where a walk could get you, but we trust (Castillo). Diego is much more comfortable against right-handed hitters. I know Alonso is a really good hitter, but I trust Diego that he’s going to execute and he certainly did.”
Castillo threw Alonso nothing but sliders and prevailed.
“For a moment, I did think about throwing a different pitch, but we’re taught if you are going to get beat, get beat with your best pitch,” he said. “It’s my best pitch. I had to go for it.”