The Mariners’ rookie pitcher who currently holds the fifth spot in the team’s rotation may have Brash as a last name.
But what Matt Brash really has are a confidence and composure that belie his status as a 23-year-old rookie who was making just his second major-league start Sunday against perennial power Houston.
Brash’s pitches went a little bit of everywhere around the plate Sunday — he walked six batters and hit another in 5.1 innings.
But where they rarely went was anywhere hard into the field as Houston didn’t get a hit until there was one out in the sixth inning of an eventual 7-2 Mariners win.
“That’s a heck of a way to get your first win,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais of Brash, who allowed just two hits and struck out five. “… When he’s effectively wild, is what I would call today, it’s truly hard to get into any rhythm with a pitcher as a hitter.”
And when Brash needed to find control he did, inducing three 6-4-3 double plays as well as getting a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out, which all quickly killed any potential Astros rallies before they could really get started.
“His stuff was disgusting,’’ said Jarred Kelenic, who had a ringside view of it from his perch in right field. “I think everyone knows that that slider just doesn’t stop running and he’s got a high-velocity fastball to back it up.’’
Sunday, Brash was also backed up by the aforementioned stellar defense as well as timely hitting.
Seattle used five runs in the fourth inning — all coming with two outs, the big blow a three-run homer by Ty France — to break the game open.
It added up to maybe Seattle’s best win of the season in front of 26,583 at T-Mobile Park.
The victory also gave Seattle a series win against Houston, with the Mariners outscoring the Astros 18-7 for the weekend. It was a win that also again displayed the resilience the Mariners exhibited so often last season in jumping on Houston to quickly cast aside the disappointment of Saturday’s 4-0 loss at the hands of Justin Verlander.
And it set what the Mariners hope is a tone for their battles in the future to come against the Astros, whom they will play 19 times in the first 103 games this year — all by July 31. The games loom critical in the battle for the AL West, which Houston has won four of the past five years.
“Definitely good to send a message out there,’’ said shortstop J.P. Crawford. “Let everyone know we are out here to win this year. I mean, especially without Hanny (Mitch Haniger, placed on the COVID injured list Saturday) and taking two out of three.’’
Said Kelenic: “The first game (an 11-1 win in the home opener Friday) was a huge confidence booster for us. But to come out after the game last night — we came out, swung the bats well, Brash did his thing. It was a great team win.’’
One that Brash will undoubtedly remember forever.
The native of Kingston, Ontario, made his MLB debut Tuesday after earning the fifth spot in the Mariners’ rotation with a standout spring. He gave ample glimpses of his tantalizing potential then, striking out six and allowing just four hits and two runs in 5.1 innings of an eventual 3-2 loss.
Sunday began inauspiciously as he walked Jose Altuve to start the game.
But two batters later Brash struck out Alex Bregman with Michael Brantley (who’d reached on a fielder’s choice) thrown out at second.
And a theme had been developed.
In the next three innings, he walked one Houston batter, each either the first or second hitter of the inning. But each time, he then induced a 6-4-3 double-play grounder — one from Altuve and two from Yuri Gurriel — to quickly get out of it.
“We knew they were going to be a little more patient (than the White Sox, who walked just once) which they were,’’ Servais said. “But credit to him — he made some big pitches when he had to.’’
Brash said the adrenaline of his first game in Seattle may have factored into the early wildness.
“Was just all a feel thing for me,’’ he said. “For some reason at the beginning of the game was just struggling throwing strikes with the off-speed. That’s going to happen. It was a little chilly out there. I thought the balls were a little bit slick. Just took me a while. As I got going, got more comfortable with the off-speed, started getting in the zone more.’’
But while Sunday may have been just his second major-league game, it was also nothing really new for Brash, who noted that his style of pitching means he’s used to getting into sticky situations — and just as used to getting out of them.
“I still felt comfortable even though I was walking those guys,’’ he said. “I’m always very comfortable in my ability to get out of jams. I feel like that’s why I’ve been a good pitcher through my career.’’
Brash settled down to get Houston 1-2-3 in the fifth. And when he struck out Chas McCormick on three pitches to start the sixth — and Houston still didn’t have a hit — it was tempting to wonder if some history might be in the offing.
Maybe fittingly, it was Altuve — booed at every turn throughout the series — who proved the villain, getting Houston’s first hit with one out in the sixth on a looper into center.
Brantley then followed with a homer to right and when Brash walked Bregman, Servais came with the hook. Paul Sewald came on to strike out the next two batters, with the bullpen allowing just two hits in the final 3.2 innings to sew up the win.
But before Sewald came on, Brash walked off to a standing ovation that figures to linger.
“The crowd was incredible,’’ Brash said. “I just enjoyed the moment.’’