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Luis Castillo

Mariners lean on ace Luis Castillo

Luis Castillo set to face fellow Dominican All-Star Framber Valdez

HOUSTON – The Astros’ Framber Valdez and fellow All-Stars Julio Rodriguez and Luis Castillo chatted for several minutes during batting practice Tuesday afternoon. They smiled and laughed, seemingly having a jovial time before Game 1 of the American League Division Series. 

Only three months ago at Dodger Stadium, Rodriguez and Valdez were All-Star teammates against Castillo and the National League. On Thursday, though, Castillo will be on Rodriguez’s side when the Seattle Mariners face their Dominican countryman in Game 2.

The AL West champion Astros have dominated the wild-card Mariners this year. The perennial contenders were 12-7 against the Mariners in the regular season to finish 16 games ahead of them in the division. Castillo, however, had nothing to do with those contests.

Castillo was with the Reds during most of those losses. The Mariners acquired the hard-throwing righthander from Cincinnati to help them end their 21-year postseason drought and eventually be better positioned against the Astros.

The Astros routed the Mariners 11-1 to take a 12-game lead in the AL West on July 29, the day Seattle acquired Castillo from the Reds. Two days later, Houston capped a 3-1 series against their Pacific Northwest rivals.

Luis Castillo carries no baggage

Castillo never faced the Astros this season. He has actually faced Houston only once in his career, and that was in an interleague game in 2019.

Castillo was with the lowly Reds in the NL while the Astros have dominated Seattle and the rest of the American League since 2017.

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“I haven’t really gotten the sense of that because when I got here, we didn’t face the Astros anymore,” Castillo says of the Astros’ dominance. “But like I said before, it doesn’t matter what team you are in the MLB, I’m going to come in and just kind of do my best that I can do.”

Castillo was 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA in 11 starts for the Mariners to finish 8-6 with a 2.99 ERA overall. The native of Bani, Dominican Republic, threw 7 ⅓ scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays last Friday to set the tone in the AL Wild Card series. 

Now, the Mariners hope Castillo can even the best-of-five Division Series before it shifts to Seattle on Saturday. 

“There’s a certain something about certain pitchers in the game,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “I think Luis Castillo has that. When he takes the mound I know how our team feels playing behind him. Like, he’s a dude. 

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“Like … his mannerisms on the mound. The other team knows it (by) the looks on the batters’ faces when they’re getting in the on-deck circle. Or they’re in the dugout and you look into the other dugout, like he’s got great stuff. And there’s no reason he can’t have a great outing for us (in Game 2).”

Framber Valdez ready

The Astros will have an All-Star pitcher going as well. The last time they both pitched against each other, they performed during the All-Star Game in July. 

Valdez (17-6, 2.82 ERA) earned the victory in relief that night at Dodger Stadium.

The Astros’ lefty has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. He threw a major-league single-season record 26-consecutive quality starts at one point.

“I think he’s a really good pitcher,” Valdez said of Castillo. “He’s a pitcher that improved a ton. I think we can all agree with that. He’s a guy that has really good command.

“But on the other hand, I also feel that I have really good command. I think I’m also a really good pitcher. I know how to manage myself out there, and we’ll see what happens.”

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