SAN DIEGO – Andres Munoz doesn’t hold any grudges toward the San Diego Padres for trading him to the Mariners when he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2020.
But it sure looked like the hard-throwing reliever had a little extra motivation when he stepped on the mound Tuesday, inheriting a small mess from starter Logan Gilbert in the sixth inning of Seattle’s 6-2 win.
“I had a desire to pitch here, but it had nothing to do with the Padres,” Munoz said through an interpreter. “I just wanted to go out there and do a good job.”
He did a stellar job, continuing a strong relief appearances.
With Seattle holding a 4-1 lead, Gilbert exited with runners on first and third with one out.
Munoz came in and got C.J. Abrams to fly out to left fielder Sam Haggerty in foul territory. The runner on third base, Nomar Mazara, tagged up and score.
Munoz walked Jurickson Profar with two apparent strikes being called balls.
With runners on first and second and two outs, it brought Manny Machado, the most dangerous hitter in the Padres’ lineup, to the plate.
Everybody knows that Munoz had a fastball that touches 102 mph, but hitters are just starting to realize how good his slider has become.
He fired a first-pitch slider for a ball. He went to the slider again that generated an ugly swing and miss from a fooled Machado.
Munoz went to the slider for a third time in a row and Machado wasn’t quite as fooled, fouling off the pitch.
In the dugout, manager Scott Servais turned to pitching coach Pete Woodworth and said, “We need a heater right here.”
Servais had an explanation after the game.
“Because he was starting to time him up and when you throw that fastball up in the zone like that, it’s almost an impossible pitch to hit,” Servais said. “It’s also really hard to lay off because it looks like a strike.”
Munoz and catcher Cal Raleigh were thinking the same. Munoz reared back and fired a heater at the top-right corner of the strike zone. Machado had no chance of catching up with the pitch, waving the bat feebly by it for an inning-ending strikeout.
“I was just (trying to) not be predictable,” Munoz said. “I just wanted to keep him thinking and guessing.”
Munoz gave a bit of a fist pump as he exited the mound.
The stadium scoreboard had the pitch at 102 mph. MLB Statcast had it at 102.5 mph.
Should it be rounded up to 103 mph?
“For me, yes,” Munoz said, flashing a wide smile .
Having thrown 11 pitches to finish the sixth inning, Munoz was brought out to pitch the seventh.
“He was really good today, and we certainly needed him to be good,” Servais said. “Do you send him back after 11 pitches, that’s a long pivot for me. You like the pivot to be five or six pitches and then you send them back out. But with where we were at in the ballgame, where they were at in their lineup, it’s kind of where we wanted Mooney to pitch.”
Munoz worked a 1-2-3 seventh, striking out Jake Cronenworth and Eric Hosmer.
“It was awesome to see,” Servais said. “He’s in a good spot and a great groove. He’s got a ton of confidence.”
He hadn’t allowed an earned run in his last nine appearances. In 11 2/3 innings, he’s struck out 23 batters with three walks and four hits. Overall, he’s appeared in 31 games, posting a 3.41 ERA with 48 strikeouts and nine walks in 31 2/3 innings pitched this season.
“I’ve just tried to keep learning from the mistakes I made in the past,” he said. “I’m enjoying it right now, but I’m not going out there right now just thinking I’ve had three or four good outings in a row.”