Why the Seattle Mariners used Robbie Ray as closer versus Astros

Oct 5, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais (9) stands in the dugout during a sixth inning pitching change by the Detroit Tigers at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 5, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais (9) stands in the dugout during a sixth inning pitching change by the Detroit Tigers at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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HOUSTON — With the fate of Game 1 of the American League Division Series on the line, Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais chose to go with starting pitcher Robbie Ray to finish the game in the bottom of the ninth, bringing him in to face Houston’s Yordan Alvarez.

The move backfired, with Alvarez blasting a walkoff three-run homer to give the Astros an 8-7 win that was a gut-punch to the Seattle Mariners, who had led the entire game.

Ray, last year’s Cy Young Award winner with the Toronto Blue Jays, threw just two pitches, including the one that landed 438 feet away in the right field stands.

Why did the Seattle Mariners choose to use Robbie Ray as a closer against the Houston Astros?

With Ray not scheduled to start in the ALDS against Houston, Servais told reporters after the game that the plan was to use the southpaw out of the bullpen. With the left-handed-hitting Alvarez at the plate, Servais used Ray in what he called a “bullet” situation, meaning Servais would give him one shot to get an out in a critical situation.

“It was something going into the series where we were at, looking at our rotation, where we were going to head, and talking with Robbie about using him out of the bullpen as a bullet, so to speak, for that type of scenario, you know, bringing in a lefty against Alvarez, although Alvarez is one of the better hitters in the league,” Servais explained. “But we talked about it coming into the series. We talked about it pregame today. I looked at it in the seventh inning and said, ‘Hey, this could happen.’ So that was the plan going in.

“End of the day, you have a plan, we still got to execute it. Got to give them credit. Tip my hat. It’s not easy to walk up there and do what he did today. But he’s one of the best hitters in the league and he showed it today.”

Ray had faced Alvarez five times in this year’s regular season, with the Houston slugger drawing two walks and a single. However, with Andres Muñoz and Paul Sewald already used (and ineffective in slowing down Houston’s comeback), Servais hoped the lefty-lefty matchup would provide the final out of the game. It did not.

Alvarez said that, even before he stepped to the plate, he knew what the situation would bring.

“Yeah, as soon as I saw him (Ray) warming up, I knew that he was going to come into the game if it came down to me,” Alvarez said. “And as soon as I saw that, I grabbed the iPad, saw our previous encounters, and just went out there.”

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Seattle must now find a way to come back from the loss, and will rely on ace Luis Castillo to lead the way when he takes the mound in Game 2 on Thursday afternoon against Houston’s Framber Valdez. First pitch is scheduled for 3:37 p.m. ET/12:37 p.m. PT.