When the Mariners got out of Houston, scraping a win out of the series, many Mariners fans breathed a sigh of relief to be done with the Astros and Baby’s First Ballpark. This Arizona series was supposed to be a reprieve from the slings and arrows suffered at the hands of the deplorable Astros before heading into a tough series against Boston. Instead, after barely eking out a win last night, the Mariners blew this game on a day when every other Wild Card competitor won, losing big to the NL’s worst team, 7-3. (Nota bene: Arizona would be MLB’s worst team, except this win catapults them in front of the hapless Orioles, who lost both games of their doubleheader against the Blue Jays today despite leading well into the seven-inning contests. Baltimore just really wants another first-round pick to complement their shiny new Adley, I guess.) Some reprieve this is. Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train, and sometimes the bright object in the sky is a foul ball that’s about to bonk your team mascot on the head.
An uncharacteristically laborious first inning for Chris Flexen signaled bad times ahead. Missing his trademark command and working with a very tight zone from HP umpire Jeremie Riggs, especially at the bottom, it took Flex 28 pitches—with only 15 strikes!—to get through the first. He walked two batters, one of whom (Ketel Marte) came around to score on an RBI single from David Peralta.
The Mariners were able to come back in the bottom of the first, when J.P. Crawford opened the game with a single and then Haniger punished a middle-middle fastball from Humberto Castellanos for a 2-1 advantage. Ty France also got hit by a pitch, because of course he did, but the Mariners weren’t able to get anything else going in that inning, a theme that would recur throughout the evening.
Things got a little exciting in the second when Flexen, again apparently suffering a case of the dreaded command yips, threw a ball over Seth Beer’s head that somehow miraculously hit his bat for a foul ball. The Diamondbacks bench took exception to that and started chirping at Flexen, with Torey Louvullo coming out and doing his best Man Whose Late-00s Beemer You Dinged in a Trader Joe’s Parking Lot impression, and Flexen gave it right back to them, both off the mound and then on it, starting out by eventually striking out Beer—a “flat at-bat!” as Dave Sims joyously called it—finally getting the call at the bottom of the zone. Then Flexen put on his Angry Pants and started just pumping fastballs at 95-96 MPH, striking out Nick Ahmed on three pitches and Daulton Varsho on four pitches, all fastballs in the zone. Angry Flex came back out in the third with a 1-2-3 inning with another strikeout of Josh VanMeter, as Flexen again pulled out 96 to strike him out looking.
Sadly, Flexen transformed back into his un-Hulked-out self in the fourth, and though he continued leaving pitches in the middle of the zone, they didn’t have that high-velocity bite and instead got punished all over the yard as the D-Backs did what the Mariners couldn’t do all night and strung together a bunch of hits, capped by a Daulton Varsho homer to make it 5-2 Arizona, and it probably could have been worse if Pavin Smith hadn’t done his once-a-game-against-the-Mariners brain fart and get thrown out easily attempting to take third on a flyout to left field that even not-a-left-fielder José Marmolejos was able to nail him on.
Flexen rebounded in the fifth for a 1-2-3 inning but Servais pulled him after that, and Justus Sheffield, after getting two quick strikeouts, gave up two more runs with some poor location misses of his own (he’d eventually strike out the side. It was some frustrating pitching to watch, no doubt, eased only by clean innings from Erik Swanson—who had his nice splitter working tonight and got two strikeouts of his own—and Sean Doolittle, who also had a strikeout and a stress-free inning. Mariners pitching struck out the Diamondbacks eleven times tonight, which should be a recipe for winning, much like the team should be able to pick Flexen up on a night when he didn’t have his best stuff, after all he’s done for the team this year. But that, of course, was not what happened.
Surprisingly, tonight it wasn’t the bottom of the lineup dragging the Mariners down, but the top of it. Excluding Crawford’s single and Haniger’s home run in the first inning, the 1-5 hitters tonight went hitless, scraping together just two walks (one Seager, and one J.P., in a particularly pleasing PA where he went down 0-2 and then worked a nine-pitch walk) and striking out five times—two of those Haniger. The 6-9 hitters accounted for the other four hits of the game: Marmo had a single, and Jarred Kelenic, after striking out in his first at-bat, showed off some tantalizing power:
Jarred Kelenic - Seattle Mariners (9) pic.twitter.com/813UyZtOGq— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) September 12, 2021
104 miles off the bat, 409 feet in September? Yes please. And Jarred wasn’t the only rookie making noise tonight: Cal Raleigh had two doubles that were just shy of leaving the park, and what they lacked in over-the-fenciness, they made up for in being absolutely scalded: 108.4 MPH and 102 MPH exit velocities. I’m surprised there isn’t a hole in the wall at T-Mobile from that first one. (Annoyingly, there is no video of Cal Raleigh hitting two doubles, mostly because each time he was stranded at third despite hitting them leadoff, because of the aforementioned fart noises from the top of the lineup, and atMariners does not necessarily want to remind people of that, I guess. Next time I will be more diligent in making sure the exploits of our darling Beef Boy are more well-documented.) If the tradeoff for having to watch the Mariners fade in the Wild Card race is important pieces of the future like Cal Raleigh and Jarred Kelenic start to figure things out at the big-league level, well, that’s a tradeoff I will take. What, you thought we were going to get both? Silly friends. And if the tradeoff for not having to play the Astros anymore is to be run over by the NL’s worst team, well, that’s a tradeoff I’m not happy with, so please put on your Angry Pants and win tomorrow, Mariners.