ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Seattle manager Scott Servais had a big smile when he started his postgame media session by saying you got hit to win on the road before adding “unless you got great pitching.”
That’s exactly what the Mariners got Thursday night.
Luis Castillo went six innings to win his sixth consecutive decision, Mike Ford drove in a run and the Mariners beat the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 in a matchup of playoff contenders.
“Our guys stepped up tonight,” Servais said. “Wow!”
Castillo (12-7) allowed four hit, four walks and struck out eight. The right-hander worked out of two-on, one-out jams in each of the first three innings. He threw 108 pitches, one off his season high.
“In those situations I don’t lose focus,” Castillo said through a translator. “If you look at my career, I actually like those situations because it helps me get focused. The way that I was able to battle and battle just shows the way this team is.”
Isaiah Campbell and Matt Brash both went an inning before Andrés Muñoz worked the ninth to get his 12th save and complete a four-hitter.
Seattle moved within a half-game of idle Houston for the AL West lead, and is 5 1/2 games back of the Rays for the top AL wild card. The Mariners, currently holding the second wild card, are 41-19 over their last 60 games.
Tampa Bay dropped four games behind AL East-leading Baltimore.
Muñoz hit Luke Raley with a pitch leading off the ninth, but the Tampa Bay center fielder was thrown out trying to steal second by catcher Cal Raleigh.
“Big out, throwing the guy out,” Servais said. “From a catcher, an old catcher like I am. Game-winning home run, throw guy out in ninth inning is right there.”
Taylor Walls then drew a walk and stole second as Jonathan Aranda struck out. Pinch-hitter Harold Ramírez struck out to end the game,
It was the Mariners’ 14th shutout, and 38th time they have held an opponent to five hits or fewer this year.
Rays starter Zack Littell (3-5) went a career-high eight innings, giving up one run and five hits during an 86-pitch outing. It was his eighth start after was being inserted into the Rays’ injury-depleted rotation on June 30. The righty’s previous best was six innings.
“It’s been fun.” Littell said. “Truly been a learning experience. It’s just nice to go out there … it feels like every week there’s something that I kind of stumble upon.”
Eugenio Suárez doubled leading off the second and scored Ford’s single as the Mariners took a 1-0 lead.
Littell retired 19 of his 21 batters following Ford’s hit.
“I thought I settled in really nicely there at the end,”Littell said. “Just attacking hitters.”
The announced crowd was 10,060. Tampa Bay started the day averaging 17,828, which is fourth-lowest in the majors.
Mariners RF Teoscar Hernández extended his hitting streak to a career-high 16 games with a first-inning single.
Suárez ran all the way from his third-base position into foul territory on the first-base side to grab Raley’s third-inning foul after Raleigh lost sight of it. … Mariners LF Dominic Canzone went halfway over a short wall in the left-field corner after tracking down Paredes’ foul ball.
Seattle 2B Josh Rojas was doubled off first base by Paredes on a high pop foul near third base to end the second. … Ford struck out in the seventh after being given a strike on a 3-2 count for calling a second time during the same at-bat.
Walls (groin) started after missing three games. He played a pair of games last weekend after missing six weeks with an oblique injury. He struck out in all these at-bats against Castillo.
Mariners RHP George Kirby (10-9) and Rays RHP Taj Bradley (5-7) were set to start Friday night.