SEATTLE — Matt Brash‘s outing was borderline bizarre on Sunday.
The Mariners right-hander threw nearly as many balls (41) as strikes (44), walked six — blowing past his previous career high of four in the Minors — and hit another batter on the hand. Brash also carried a no-hitter against a tough Astros lineup into the sixth inning and made Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley, two of the game’s top hitters, look fooled as part of his five strikeouts.
It was a whirlwind of a start in Brash’s home debut, yet thanks to some nifty defense and timely hitting, his effectively wild afternoon led the Mariners to a commanding 7-2 victory that secured a three-game series win against the defending American League champs.
Seattle’s five-spot in the fourth inning, all of which came with two outs, gave Brash the cushion he needed and helped him avoid what was shaping up to be a tightrope. Ty France hit a three-run homer, while Adam Frazier and Julio Rodríguez each had an RBI single, the latter of which drove in the first run of his big league career. Then in the sixth, Jarred Kelenic and Abraham Toro hit back-to-back doubles for some insurance.
The offensive outburst was encouraging after Seattle was blanked by Justin Verlander one night prior. But Brash’s quirky outing was easily the headliner in Sunday’s matinee, especially given that he’s consistently been in the strike zone all spring. Seattle’s No. 6 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 97 overall, Brash had issued only three walks between three Spring Training outings and his big league debut last Tuesday vs. the White Sox in Chicago.
Brash’s six walks are tied with Kansas City’s Kris Bubic for the most in an outing in the Majors this year. Brash threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of the 21 batters he faced, but he found himself in three-ball counts 10 times, with seven of those batters reaching base. The only hits he gave up were via a one-out single to Jose Altuve in the sixth and a two-run homer to Brantley immediately after. Then, after one more walk to Bregman, Brash’s day was done, and he exited to a roaring ovation.
“Obviously, I wasn’t throwing as many strikes as I would like to, and they weren’t chasing breaking balls because I didn’t show that I could throw for a strike,” said Brash, who earned his first MLB win. “That’s where I was struggling the most. … It was just all a feel thing for me. For some reason, at the beginning of the game, I was just struggling throwing strikes with offspeed. It’s going to happen. It was a little chilly out there. I thought the balls were a little slick, so it just took me a while.”
Yet there were moments of resilience, too, notably when Brash came back from being down 3-0 to Bregman and completed a strike-him-out, throw-him-out to end the first with assistance from catcher Luis Torrens. It was one of four double plays turned by the Mariners with Brash in the game, the others coming from the blossoming middle-infield combo of J.P. Crawford and Frazier.
“He was very effectively wild,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Brash. “He had more balls than strikes for a while. The double-play pitches that he was throwing, I think he got eight outs on four pitches. Any time you do that, it saves his pitch count, and then it got him out of trouble.”
Brash’s elite breaking balls — described by Kelenic as “disgusting” — are conducive to double-play balls.
“Seeing some of the movement on his ball, it’s unreal,” Crawford added. “It’s so easy and fun to play behind him because he’s a competitor. He gets on the mound, and he was making the hitters a little uncomfortable.”
Brash was also more efficient and more in the zone as the outing went on, compared to when he hit Aledmys Díaz with a 95.7 mph fastball in a 2-2 count with two outs in the second, and when he walked No. 9 hitter Chas McCormick to lead off the third. Four of Brash’s five strikeouts came after those sequences.
It wasn’t the cleanest effort, but Brash’s unbridled confidence helped carry him through the day, just as it did in his debut. The White Sox and Astros, his two opponents thus far, were AL division winners last year and had two of the four best offenses in baseball.
“I’m glad I faced these teams, man,” Brash said. “It’s really cool to see my stuff against these guys. I watched a lot of these hitters when I was growing up and stuff, and so it’s really fun to just compete against these guys. I’m just looking forward to each and every next step.”