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Mariners lose to Angels in first AL West faceoff of spring training, 3-7

Double-digit strikeouts are also bad in spring training, it turns out

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners
Chris Flexen, seen here starring in Oops! All Elbows
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time this spring, the Mariners got to play not only a fellow AL opponent, but also a divisional opponent. It’s always felt to me like an unfair advantage for Houston to be the only team in the AL West not to play in the Cactus League/train in Arizona, as it decreases the amount of scouting opportunities and looks for fellow players. Although that doesn’t explain how gobsmacked the Mariners hitters looked by the Angels pitching staff, striking out 11 times in the game.

The Mariners hitters might have struck out 11 times, but the bright side of that is Mariners pitching struck out 13 Angels. Chris Flexen looked sharp in his season debut, striking out two in the first inning while pounding the zone and racking up swinging strikes. He got Brandon Marsh to swing over the top of a changeup for his first strikeout of the game and followed that with this punchout of the admittedly strikeout-prone Jo Adell:

Flex would punch out another two batters in the second, with the only damage coming on a Josh Rojas double on a pretty good changeup; Jesse Winker would later let a ball drop in front of him in the outfield for a Matt Thaiss RBI “single.” Things could have gotten worse when J.P. Crawford uncharacteristically booted a routine ground ball, but Flexen rebounded to strike out Braxton Martinez to staunch the damage at one run. Like Marco, Flexen looked to be quickly up to speed despite the late start to spring.

But about those eleven strikeouts: almost half of them belonged to Angels starter Reid Detmers in just two innings of work. The only other time the Mariners saw the lefty Detmers, it was at the tail end of his rocky rookie campaign, where he gave up two runs over 1.2 innings en route to an ERA of over 7 in his first taste of the bigs. Unfortunately, Detmers appears to have found command of his pitches, looking absolutely dominant as he sliced through the Mariners lineup, most obvious when he undressed Jesse Winker on three pitches in a diabolical bit of sequencing and precise location.

If you’d like a preview of coming not-attractions:

The most damage the Mariners could inflict on Reid Detmers was a single off the bat of Eugenio Suárez, recording his first hit as a Mariner.

Winker would get his revenge when Detmers was replaced by a righty, the unfortunately-named Janson Junk. Cal Raleigh worked a walk off Junk and J.P. Crawford scalded a double down the right field line, putting runners in scoring position for Winker, who just missed parking this baseball in Mesa:

Mariners pitching would give that lead back when reliever Anthony Misiewicz missed his location to Matt Thaiss, leaving one in the lefty loop zone for Thaiss to crank over the wall for some lefty-on-lefty violence. In today’s 40 in 25 profile on Misiewicz, I talked about how Tony Sandwiches needs his command to cooperate better than it did in 2021, and to be fair, he did appear to be attempting to pepper the edges of the plate better, but one bad pitch is still one bad pitch for a two-run home run.

The Mariners were briefly able to tie the game up again with a Ty France homer, off actual Angels bullpen member Jaime Barria even, but alas, this blast would mark the end of Seattle’s scoring for the day.

The rest of the pitching was...fine-ish. Erik Swanson gave up a lollipop single but came back to strike out Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell, getting the latter on a neat slider. Asher Wojciechowski took the lion’s share of innings among the relievers, striking out four (good!) but also giving up an enormous home run to Braxton Martinez (bad!), who is not Brailyn Marquez no matter how many times I type it, that Martinez crushed over the batter’s eye and caused the Angels announcing team to say something so powerfully stupid I will not repeat it here, because I am the Bigger Person. Brimful of Asher would get tagged for another run in that inning after giving up a double to Michael Stefanic aka PolyStefanic Spree; he could have been out of the inning but a throwing error by first baseman Jake Scheiner on a hot shot he’d made a great stop on allowed the run to score.

Not that it would have mattered. Wyatt Mills allowed another two runs in the ninth, including another massive home run over the batters’ eye, and the Mariners’ replacement batters, as noted, weren’t able to get anything else going offensively. I would like to force everyone who claimed they’d happily watch baseball with replacement players during the lockout to be forced to watch only the late innings of spring training games, Clockwork Orange-style. This is a bummer of a note to end a recap on, so instead let’s highlight another good pitching performance that’s a good story, too: reliever David Ellingson, who has been quietly grinding along in the Mariners system since being drafted in the 34th round—a round that no longer exists in the draft today—back in 2016. Ellingson earned an invite to big-league camp by winning the Mariners’ minor-league award for doing the best job controlling the zone, and today he showed that off with a 1-2-3 inning where he needed just 12 pitches (nine of them thrown for strikes) to dismiss the Angels. He struck out two batters, former Mariner Dillon Thomas and this strikeout of Kyle Lovelace:

All right then! Way to make the most of your moment, DE.

Tomorrow should be a very interesting spring training game, as both George Kirby and Matt Brash are slated to go for the Mariners. Unfortunately, there’s no TV broadcast of it, and if you want to listen to it, you’ll have to stream it off the app, because 710 is broadcasting it on a tape delay. #StreamThemRise I guess.