It’s a tired refrain at this point, but it has been too damn hot in the Pacific Northwest these past few days. Although we are through the worst of it - for now - it still pushed 90 degrees in Seattle today, and the heat and haze teamed up for a pretty perfect dog days of summer afternoon, where one’s sole thought is “where can I get some cold drinks?” Usually these days don’t come until August, if they do at all, but the Earth had other plans for us this year, it seemed.
With Buffalo and the rest of the East Coast experiencing their own heat wave, I guess I couldn’t blame the Mariners for being stuck in dog days mode. After all, 90 degrees is 90 degrees no matter where you are. Despite J.P. Crawford walking and Mitch Haniger continuing to break out of his funk with a base hit to open the game, the middle of the order couldn’t bring either across against the mercurial Robbie Ray, with Luis Torrens’s two-out line drive right to George Springer the only real threat. But hey, they made Ray work; thirty pitches in the first inning is always a good sign. Maybe they could push him out early and feast on a beleaguered Blue Jays bullpen?
Not so. Instead, after the Haniger single, Ray settled down and retired the next thirteen hitters he faced; even worse, he needed less than three dozen pitches to mow through Seattle’s lineup before Tom Murphy laced a single to center with two outs in the fifth. Chris Flexen, on the other hand, did not have the same luck. Yeah, he was facing a Blue Jays team that’s second in baseball in wRC+, but his command was less than its usual stellar self, and he dealt with long at-bats traffic in every inning except the fourth - which for this writer, made charting his pitches an overall excruciating process.
Eternal Mariner killer (and maybe future signee?) Marcus Semien struck the first blow in the second, fighting Flexen for eight pitches before sneaking a full-count cutter just past the reach of Kyle Seager to grab two runs.
Gross. Flexen was able to limit the damage to two runs in the frame, and kept the Jays off the board in the third and fourth, but things started to unravel in the fifth. He got Bo Bichette on a first-pitch groundout, but Vlad Jr. struck with a double down the line immediately after to reach base for the third time. In the fifth! Back to back walks to Teoscar Hernández and Springer had the water boiling, and although some spilled over thanks to a Cavan Biggio sac fly, Flexen quickly sat down Randal Grichuk on three pitches to cap off a gutty outing. Three walks against two strikeouts will never jump off the page, but overall, he did his job against a lineup that’s stuffed with mashers. And guess what! Robbie Ray may have dramatically improved his command without sacrificing his big strikeout totals - he had ten on the night - but he’s still been bitten by some hard contact. The bats finally broke through in the sixth; in a near-mirror of the first inning, J.P. and Mitch both singled, and although Seager continued his rough day at the plate with a three-pitch strikeout, Ty France unloaded on a first-pitch fastball to tie the game. Guess that wrist is okay!
Torrens and Dylan Moore struck out on consecutive borderline called third strikes, but that’s okay! Ray was out for the night, Flexen couldn’t get tagged with the loss, and all we had to do was hand it over to Rafael Montero! How much easier could that get? And look, after a bad luck infield hit from Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., he was able to get Reese McGuire, the nine-hole hitter, on a fielder’s choice! Who cares that he promptly allowed another hit to Semien? The go-ahead run didn’t score, and surely he could take care of Bichette.
Or not. There were still three full innings of Mariner hitting to get through, but I think we all realized that this was the penultimate nail in the coffin for tonight’s game. For those who didn’t, Will Vest surrendering another three-run bomb to (who else, am I right) Marcus Semien - on a ball that clanked off the foul pole, no less - had to have convinced even the most stalwart fans that this one wasn’t meant to be. Yohan Ramírez pitched a scoreless eighth, and France chipped in with an eighth-inning double, but besides that, the M’s were turned away pretty quietly. Like with the White Sox series, I’ll be satisfied if they can snag a game over the next two days, and a series win would be total gravy. Storms in Buffalo tomorrow might threaten the lefty duel of Justus Sheffield and Steven Matz, but should the rain hold, the M’s will march on. And hey, it’ll be a cool high of 81 tomorrow in Seattle, with Buffalo at a positively frigid 75. Maybe that’ll be enough to shake off the dog days a little while longer.