HOUSTON — No wonder left-handed pitcher Ryan Borucki was excited about being traded from Toronto to the Mariners late Saturday.
He has great memories of T-Mobile Park. As a rookie in 2018, Borucki shut down the Mariners, allowing one run — not earned — in a 7-2 Blue Jays victory.
It was the first victory of his career.
“It was just great that Seattle came and grabbed me, because this place has a very special place in my heart, because that was where my first win was [as a major-leaguer], and just I know what the fan base is,” Borucki told reporters Sunday.
Another bonus: Borucki’s wife is from Vancouver, B.C.
“So it’s very close to her family,” said Borucki, drafted in the 15th round by Toronto in 2012.
The Mariners sent minor-league infielder Tyler Keenan to Toronto to acquire Borucki, who came up as a starter but was switched to relief after the 2019 season. He was designated for assignment by Toronto on May 31 after allowing seven earned runs in 6 1/3 innings (9.95 ERA).
But Borucki didn’t allow a base runner in two appearances — covering 1 1/3 innings — against Seattle in May in Toronto. So he has not allowed an earned run in 9 1/3 innings against the Mariners.
“He’s got a really good arm,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He pitched well against us if I remember right.”
Servais said Borucki will hit 94 to 95 mph with his fastball and has “a pretty good slider.”
After a decade in the Blue Jays organization, Borucki was ready for a change.
“I was with the organization for many seasons, and I feel like in baseball that is not really the norm,” he said. “Just get a new set of eyes on me here, and they might be able to unlock something that no one’s really ever seen before. I really only know the Blue Jays way. So I’m really excited to come here and see what the Americans have.”
Servais was hoping circumstances might allow him to use Borucki in a low-leverage situation Sunday, but that chance did not come in the Mariners’ 6-5 victory in 10 innings against Texas.
Borucki got his chance Monday — and in a high-leverage situation. He entered the game with two outs in the seventh inning to face Astros star Yordan Alvarez. After getting the powerful lefty to ground out, Borucki’s night was finished — successfully.
Castillo on a roll
Reliever Diego Castillo has enjoyed quite a turnaround the past month.
Servais continued using Castillo in high-leverage situations even after Castillo was struggling mightily early in May, and that confidence has paid off.
In his first three appearances in May, Castillo allowed a total of nine earned runs over one inning — an 81.00 ERA in that span — and his season ERA ballooned to 9.28.
Since then Castillo has held opponents without a run in seven of eight appearances. He has not allowed a run in his past six appearances — and he has picked up wins in his past two outings.
“Diego has had a lot of success in this league, and I don’t care how long you play in this league, you are going to hit bad spells or when things don’t go your way,” Servais said. “But if you have some foundation to go back to, and for us — I think everyone knows — that is controlling the strike zone and getting ahead in the count, and that is what he has done.
“He has been critical for us the past three or four series. He’s got his confidence back.”
Castillo pitched two scoreless innings to get the win in Seattle’s 7-6, 10-inning Thursday victory over Baltimore. He got the win in Sunday’s win over Texas, not allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth after the Mariners scored three runs in the ninth to tie the score.
Servais pointed to the outing after Castillo’s three poor May appearances as the turning point. Drew Steckenrider was brought in to preserve an 8-5 lead May 15 at the New York Mets.
But Steckenrider allowed four consecutive hits and a pair of runs. Servais brought in Castillo with runners on second and third and one out. Castillo stranded the tying and go-ahead runs on base with two strikeouts that preserved an 8-7 win.
“Sometimes that’s all it takes is getting a big out in a key spot, and you start getting your confidence back,” Servais said. “And that’s what we’re seeing from him.”
On Monday night, Castillo pitched a scoreless ninth against the Astros for his third save.
Swanson return delayed
Reliever Erik Swanson will not join the Mariners on the road trip, as the team had hoped.
Swanson, on the injured list because of right-elbow inflammation, was scheduled to pitch in a minor-league game Sunday with Class AAA Tacoma, but that was moved to Tuesday night with the Rainiers in Salt Lake City.
“He was a little fatigued, but no pain,” Servais said. “We need to do the right thing for him so that he’s 100% healthy when he comes back.”
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