The Mariners lost tonight, 6-0, against the A’s. There is not much to say: The A’s scored five of their six runs in the third inning against Chris Flexen. After a solid and tidy first two innings, Flexen ran into trouble right away in the third when Matt Chapman worked an eight-pitch walk in which Flexen’s misses weren’t particularly close. Those big misses maybe set up a normally aggressive Elvis Andrus to work a 13-pitch at-bat which ended in a double when Flexen let a little cutter leak over the middle of the plate too far. A nice play by Fraley in the outfield kept Chapman, who had walked, from scoring, but then Site Enemy Mark Canha jumped on a first-pitch fastball to score one, and then another when Andrus ran through the stop sign but Trammell’s throw was off-line. Matt Olson followed with an RBI single, and then Mitch Moreland absolutely destroyed a fastball in the middle of the plate to push the A’s tally to five. Like, 444 feet, so far that Trammell just stopped halfway to the wall and watched it. Ouch.
Flexen’s command seemingly suffered a little after that lengthy inning; his misses got further away from the plate, and he was close to eighty pitches after just four innings, but was able to get around some traffic in the fourth and was able to make it through the sixth without any more damage. The A’s would add another run off Robert Duggar in the ninth, but it hardly mattered, because Seattle wasn’t able to get anything off Oakland starter Sean Manaea, who pitched a complete game shutout for the first time since 2018. Frankly, I feel lucky to be writing just about a sleepy shutout loss instead of a no-hitter or a perfect game. (The Mariners should keep Jake Fraley on the roster all year just so they don’t get perfecto’d, my column:)
It took until the bottom of the third for the Mariners to get their first baserunner, which was a Jake Fraley walk, of course, and prompted the rare joke from Mike Blowers to hypothesize that pitchers are intimidated by Fraley’s “beard game.” They got their first hit in the fourth, off the bat of Mitch Haniger, of course, who ate Jed Lowrie up with a single directed right at Lowrie’s face with an EV of 107. Unfortunately, he was then erased on a Seager GIDP, and then Ty France struck out to end the inning. The Mariners had one more chance to get a run on the board in the fifth when Tom Murphy singled, as did Jack Mayfield, and Jake Fraley walked to load the bases. But alas there were two outs, and J.P. Crawford promptly grounded out on the second pitch of the at-bat to quell the threat.
It’s disappointing to see the Mariners go down so punchless on the first-ever Lou Gehrig Day in MLB, on the date of Gehrig’s death. David Adler’s picture book biography Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man is one of my favorites (parents: get this book for your kids! If you’ve read those “A picture book of...” books, that’s the same author), and really sparked my admiration for Gehrig: his work ethic and determination to succeed in life despite humble origins; the epic, better-than-Hollywood love story between him and his wife; and the grace and humility he displayed as he battled the disease that would come to bear his name. It’s a fight that has direct echoes in the game that was played tonight, with Athletics outfielder Stephen Piscotty having lost his mother to the disease in 2018 after requesting a trade to the A’s so he could be close to her in his final days; the large tattoo on Mariner first baseman Jacob Nottingham’s arm with Lou Gehrig looking down over his grandmother and aunt, who both suffered from ALS; and Justin Dunn, who was at Boston College when Pete Frates, former player and founder of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, as the director of baseball operations. In an in-game interview, Dunn called ALS “baseball’s disease,” and recognized the inherited burden MLB has in taking a bold stand in fighting the disease that took the “Iron Horse” and continues to affect so many lives in baseball today.
There was one player who showed some fight today: Jack Mayfield, who continues to scrap for playing time and attempt to scratch out a place for himself in baseball, had two of Seattle’s four hits in the game. He also turned two nice plays deep in the shift at second base, one that saved a run as Matt Olson doubled in the next at-bat, and another ending the inning and another scoring threat from the A’s. Mayfield also got picked off second base in a classic TOOTBLAN, but even that I can forgive because he was just trying to make something happen and just got over-aggressive. That’s something I’ve noticed from Mayfield’s at-bats: he wants to succeed so badly, if he could put himself on first base by sheer force of will alone, he would. (I am also a sucker for a position player who gleefully accepts the job of pitching, although Mayfield actually did do some college pitching, including pitching a complete game shutout of his own.) In a night when the offense was positively somnambulant, seeing Mayfield trying to bring a little spark to the game made me smile, even if it didn’t make much difference in the box score. I think the Iron Horse would have approved.