Today’s game was essentially two games: a major-league game and a minor-league one. The bad news is, the Mariners lost both. The good news is, neither count for anything.
It was a battle of the exes today as Eugenio Suárez and Jesse Winker faced their old team for the first time as part of a lineup that certainly looked what the Mariners will be rolling out on Opening Day. They were facing top Reds prospect Hunter Greene, he of the 80-grade fastball, which would have been fun to see, eh? Not so fast.
Okay, this part would have been fun to see: after making quick work of the Mariners in the first, with the only damage a walk to Jesse Winker, the Mariners got it going in the second with a leadoff homerun from Suárez (we as a site refuse to call him Geno, that is some midwestern nonsense that needs to be stopped) followed by Kelenic turning around a Greene fastball for a homer of his own. Julio then worked a walk, but was erased by a JP GIDP, my least favorite combination of letters. That’s too bad too, because Cal Raleigh doubled after that and would have easily scored Julio but instead the inning ended with Frazier lining out. That would also end the Mariners starters’ scoring off Greene for the day.
But [Paramore voice] ain’t it fun?
Geno and Jarred go back-to-back pic.twitter.com/GUDbHI0LGu— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 5, 2022
Meanwhile, the Mariners’ starter didn’t fare quite as well, Flexen started out shaky, giving up a leadoff home run to Jonathan India and a single to new Red Tommy Pham that thankfully didn’t go any further, then started off his second inning by hitting Mike Moustakas, but got out of a bases-loaded jam then, too. Despite getting two quick outs in the third, however, Flexen couldn’t wiggle out of trouble once again, giving up three straight hits—a double to Tyler Stephenson, a single to Moustakas, and a single to Kyle Farmer, scoring Stephenson to tie the game at 2-2. Then Nick Senzel quickly untied the game, launching a three-run home run. One more two-run homer off the bat of Tyler Naquin in the fourth completed both Flexen’s day—a rough seven runs on nine hits on four innings—and the major-league component of the game, with Cincy leading 5-2.
On the bright side, Seattle’s major league relievers both looked sharp, albeit against some fairly hapless minor leaguers, but Paul Sewald, Sergio Romo, and Drew Steckenrider all did what major leaguers should do against less experienced competition, allowing no hits, walking none, and striking out a combined four batters over their three innings.
Unfortunately, the Mariners also lost the minor-league portion of this game, after all the big-leaguers had gone home for the day to pack up and prepare for the season opener. It wasn’t for lack of trying from some of the youngsters: 18-year-old Edryn Rodríguez, who spent last season in the DSL, had an RBI double and displayed some strong fielding at second; slick-fielding but typically light-hitting A-baller Cesar Izturis Jr. had a triple and a single on a three-RBI day; and Miguel Pérez, who spent most of 2021 in the AZL, added a pair of singles. And while not single-A minor leaguers, Dylan Moore added another double to his spring total, as did Luis Torrens, who caught the remainder of this game after entering in the fifth.
That double came off former Mariner Brandon Williamson, who was the headliner in the Suárez/Winker trade; Williamson pitched 2.1 innings, giving up three runs on four hits and striking out three, and was credited with a hold.
The unprecedented event of the minor-league season starting on the same day as spring training games has put many teams in a bind; Tacoma only released their full roster today, and it’s littered with players making a stopoff before they’ll be heading on to Everett, like Travis Kuhn, Jarod Bayless, Kyle Hill, Andy Thomas, etc. The Louisville Bats, Triple-A affiliate of the Cardinals, still hadn’t released a roster two hours ahead of their season opener. All of that is to say: teams were forced to put players into quote-unquote “big league” spring training games, which actually functionally became minor league spring training games. Poor Dave and Rick were mostly agog at being made to call this game in the latter innings, repeatedly referring to the walks/balks, multiple passed balls, and field errors as “weird baseball” but which any devoted watcher the lower minor leagues recognizes as developmental baseball.
Unfortunately, the Mariners’ developmental pitching proved to be a little rougher than Cincinnati’s developmental pitching, with 2018 international signing Danny Chang, who hasn’t pitched out of the AZL, unable to record an out while giving up three runs, and 19-year-old José Junior Aquino, who hasn’t pitched outside of the DSL, giving up another two. That, plus Flexen’s seven runs, sadly couldn’t compete with the plucky A-ball youngsters (and Torrens and Moore) getting seven of their own off a combination of MLB reliever and former Mariner Hunter Strickland, the MLB-adjacent Williamson, and A-ball reliever Alexis Diaz. Hopefully that will be a shot of confidence to the young Mariners hitters, and here’s double hoping we never see spring training games still going on when MiLB opens again.