I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, I really don’t. I’m overjoyed at the hit parade we witnessed tonight. In truth, though, the Mariners’ offense could have called it a day after the very first pitch they faced: one that JP launched into the stands before Rick Rizzs and the crew at 710 could even catch up to the fact that the bottom of the first inning had begun.
It’s for that reason that I’m saddened Chris Flexen is not the header image tonight. I know what you’re thinking: “Addie, you chose the header!”
Well, listen, I couldn’t find an image that captured his glory. It may be a result of his all-business approach on the mound: no K-struts to convey his success, no Marco-style lion roars. That’s no fault of his, of course. The game will always love its stoic heroes and their indomitable demeanor.
It could also be because he never got himself into the kind of trouble that would elicit the rare outpourings of emotion he has shown at times. Seeing as no Twins player ever reached second against him at any point in his career-best eight-inning outing, that may very well be the case.
Before digging into the pitching meat and potatoes, I know you all want to celebrate the offense that poured on like April rain, so let’s do it. Let’s savor the fun, juicy part of the game:
Double digit runs for the first time all year! Fourteen hits! Three home runs! Three three-hit nights! JP on the first pitch! France with his first homer since April 18, a double, a single, and a HBP (ouch!)! Torrens back from Tacoma with a bomb and a single! Bauers defying the laws of xBA (0.050, 0.050, 0.090 on his hits, .170 on his popout)! A bases clearing triple and a single for Shed Long! Fraley with a hit and a walk to keep his OPS over 1.000! Murph with a sac fly, two walks, and a run scored!
The only real downers of the day were Moore and Seager, who combined for 4 strikeouts, 1 walk (which did not score), and 9 runners left on base. It’s okay though, I still love them.
I’d like to re-emphasize, however, that nearly all of this was unnecessary. The Twins, a team that Goldsmith may have slightly overstated as having one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, were reduced to absolute shadows of themselves today by Flexen’s collection of pitches. They are bad this year, to be sure, and have already been shutout twice this season, on one day in April: a doubleheader sweep by the A’s, but they are not lacking in raw hitting talent.
Flexen set his career high K record at 8, with 13 of his other 16 outs on the ground and just 3 in the air. He threw 107 pitches in 8 innings, nearly 72% of them strikes, and walked exactly 0 batters. If you subtract a few long ABs early on and squint, it’s not hard to see that this game had the potential to be a complete game shutout. When he was pulled, it was by pitch count alone, not for any lack of stuff (the Twins went popup, single, strikeout, groundout in the 8th).
Each of Flexen’s pitches were working for him, and to pay respect to his three favorites, he threw them in perfectly even distribution: 30 cutters, 30 changeups, and 30 4-seamers. He sprinkled in 17 curveballs, eliciting an absurd 47 CSW% (i.e. called strikes + whiffs percentage) on that pitch alone.
His 4-seamer was sitting at about 93, reaching as high as 94.8, compared to his average velo of 92.5 this year, and it paid off: he had an excellent 43 CSW% on it tonight.
It was the changeup that stood out to the broadcast booth tonight, though, and for good reason: 5 of his 8 K’s came on his changeup, each one ending the AB with a batter going down swinging. It looked like a genuine wipe-out pitch tonight, one that made Nelson Cruz look foolish on multiple occasions.
The absolute romp the Mariners had tonight might not have fixed their awful run differential, but it did make a dent, and it puts them back in a familiar position: one game under .500 for yet another day.
I’m not sure how Kikuchi felt watching the Mariners give Flexen 9 more runs than he needed, but for those of us in our seats at the game or watching from home, it was far and away the most giddy and low-stress event of the year, and for that I’m grateful.
And yet, as fun as the hit parade was, I’m grateful above all to Chris Flexen, whose performance was as dominant as it was daring. Or, as he’d put it:
Chris Flexen called the changeup to Nelly in the 4th (that led to the K) a ballsy pitch. Said there were a few of those tonight, but when you feel good you want to keep attacking.— Jen Mueller (@JenTalksSports) June 16, 2021