It’s hard to conjure in the mind’s eye the last time the Mariners pulled something like this off. We’d all forgive you, in fact, if you could not.
To stroll into Oakland for a series with legitimate playoff implications (whether as contenders or spoilers), win the first one, and then dominate the next and final game is not in the SOP manual for this Seattle team in the past two decades.
Nor, for this particular iteration of the Mariners, was the form of domination seen this afternoon. For a team that relies seemingly entirely on endless clutch moments to win one-run games, extra innings contests, and unthinkable comebacks, this was a novelty. To do it against a quality, if careening, contender makes it feel all the more special.
Within the confines of the season, to win without any apparent luck (or chaos or magic or what have you) feels more surprising than some of the wild wins pulled out of thin air.
And so, in that sense, the script was flipped today.
In another sense, however, the script for this game was a fait accompli before the first pitch.
Cole Irvin, whose comments have been widely circulated and lampooned, has not seen success against the Mariners in either of his previous two starts against them. He hadn’t made it past 4.2 innings against Seattle at all this year, and his otherwise passable talent has seemed to evaporate when facing offensive juggernauts as formidable as Luis Torrens and Tom Murphy.
The Mariners, having expressed with only the slightest of opacity their disdain for his remarks, entered the game with yet another chip on their shoulder and momentum on their side. As the A’s have slid, the M’s have tread enough water to remain in striking distance. It was clear enough yesterday which team is hungrier and more persistent.
Chris Flexen, a pitcher whose MLB future was murky at best not long ago, has inspired a confidence in players and fans, in large part by leading the American League in a particularly critical outcome, alongside some excellent company:
Most AL starts 6+ innings allowing 1 ER or fewer:— Gary Hill Jr. (@GaryHillJr) August 24, 2021
1. Chris Flexen- 10
Gerrit Cole- 10
Lance Lynn- 10
His entirely deserved trust is seen perhaps nowhere better than in this dugout embrace immediately following his final pitch of the day:
Combine these factors and you will understand why the 7 hits and 3 runs the Mariners put up against Irvin in his shortest outing against them of the season were part and parcel of a story written on the walls; why every member of the starting lineup reaching base safely should not seem so out of place in this particular pairing; why we should have seen Chris Flexen’s stellar outcomes today coming from a mile away.
I can’t blame you if you had your doubts, if you consoled yourself ahead of time by saying “winning one is a victory in itself, let’s just make it home safe.”
All this is to say that shock at this win and this mode of winning, feigned or not, is understandable but unwarranted. A peaceful win against a good team may come as a surprise any other day, but today’s went down exactly as it always would have, as it was meant to.
There is no script heading into the upcoming series against the Royals: nothing to cling to aside from the assumption that the Mariners are likely the better team. That series will be no less impactful on Seattle’s playoff dreams, but it’s uncharted water.
So use the off day to relish in seeing success from Kelenic and Torrens, Murphy and Moore. Enjoy the knowledge that Drew Steckenrider sealed the win with an uneventful 2.1 IP save. When that wears thin, come to the ballpark in SoDo on Thursday and prepare for whatever lies ahead.