This is my second recap here at Lookout Landing, and it bears some resemblance to my first. My first recap was of a Thursday game of the Cleveland Guardians, which the Mariners won 3-2.
And here we are again, seven days later. Same day of the week, same opposing team, same final score. How we got there this time around is pretty different today, though.
Things did not start out the way Chris Flexen wanted. A one-out solo shot from Andrés Giménez in the top of the first inning gave Cleveland an early lead.
Flex doubled down for the rest of his start, though. He only allowed two more hits after the first inning, walked no one, and struck out three batters in his five innings of work. He wasn’t always hitting his spots, and in the first couple innings he kept spiking the ball in the dirt. He focused up against every batter he faced, though, and induced a lot of weak contact on the ground.
On the offensive side of things, there wasn’t too much to watch for the most part. Slowest man on earth Ty France failed to leg out an infield single on a ball hit up the middle that bounced off second. Toro had an un-Toro-like game, striking out twice. Those were his first strikeouts in the spring, though, so he’s been living up to his low K% this far. Kelenic didn’t really select his pitches all that well, got fooled on a nasty slider, and struck out. Nothing too impressive from the M’s bats today.
Except for two.
Tonight was the Julio and Frazier game. Julio scored all of the Mariners runs today, and two of them came on balls hit by Frazier. The first was a graceful little arcing ball that juuuuuuust got down. With two outs, Julio was running on contact, and this time he didn’t slide into third.
You’ll no doubt notice Guardians centerfielder Bradley Zimmer losing his footing and collapsing onto the grass. This game was full of goofy outfielding. It’s a bit of a theme.
The second time Julio got on base he managed to work a walk out of a PA that started off with him down 0-2. After moving to second on a D-Mo single to left field, and then to third as Tom Murphy grounded into a double play, Julio came across to score on a nicely squared up single off Frazier’s bat.
Frazier and Julio also had big nights defensively, with Adam catching a nice line drive in the top of the fifth to save a run, and Julio doing this to cut down Josh Naylor trying to stretch a single into a double.
There’s plenty to talk about on this play, from Julio’s cannon of an arm, to how it sure looks like Naylor avoided the tag and was actually safe. But my favorite part of this play is the way Winker just hits the deck. Yeah, getting out of Julio’s path to throw is the right thing to do, but look at the way he does it. It’s like his shoelaces are tied together.
Anyway, Seattle’s bullpen was strong, allowing only five hits but one was a solo shot in the top of the seventh from Owen Miller off of Wyatt Mills that tied the game at 2. Other than that blip, however, none of the Mariners ever got themselves in trouble, thanks in part due to defense like Julio’s and Frazier’s.
That tie was destined to break, as Julio came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh. With one out and on a 2-2 count, he decided it was time to show off his speed, as he launched a ball to the center-right field.
Again, there’s a lot to talk about here. It’s a legitimate, straight up inside-the-park home run, without any errors or diving outfielder shenanigans. But my favorite part is, of course, the goofy outfielding.
Look at the way they both just plow into the wall. They look like video game characters doing the same animation, just mirroring each other.
Much has been said about Julio having the most fun on the baseball field, and that’s certainly true. Look out he smiles after he makes a pretty difficult out, adjusting from his difficulties yesterday.
Julio also has another very useful talent. He has the ability to laugh at himself.
Julio said he knew the shot to right-center wasn’t gone. He was thinking triple.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) April 1, 2022
“And this time I picked up my third base coach,” he said with a grin, referring to yesterday’s baserunning miscue.
After making a baserunning error yesterday where he ignored his third base coach and slid into the base instead of running home to score, he was sure to adjust today.
“Adjustment” is a word that I think the rest of the lineup could stand to hear. For the most part, the M’s stood no chance against Guardian’s starter Civale, as he was dealing nasty breaking balls and racking up 7 strikeouts in 4 innings of work. They weren’t adjusting to his pitches, swinging at bad ones and failing to punish his mistakes. With the regular season only a week away, and as much as I wish the Mariners could play the Guardians every Thursday night and win 3-2, eventually they will have to play, and ideally beat, other teams.
I’m not worried, though. There’s good baseball in these guys, and if all else fails, and the heavens smile on this goofy little baseball squad, they should be able to ride Julio nights like this to a competitive season.