As I’ve gotten older, I notice it takes a little longer to bounce back from pesky colds and the like, taking a couple days to fully clear the cobwebs out from a head cold, whereas in my more spry days I’d be back to 100% seemingly overnight. Maybe when the Red Sox brought their #DirtyWater into T-Mobile Park they infected the whole team with no-hitsitis and it’s taking the Mariners a while to bounce back, because after the team sleepwalked their way through an 0-2 loss yesterday that was so boring and bad the whole LL staff apologized to recapper Lou multiple times for having to cover it, they did the same tonight in a 2-3 loss in the opening game of the series to the Twins.
It seemed like the story tonight would be about Seattle’s pitching letting the team down once again, after Chris Flexen looked shaky right out of the gate: Luis Arráez, the Final Boss of Pesky Hitters, led off with a single on the first pitch of the game and then Byron Buxton homered because of course he did, because Byron Buxton lives to torture the Mariners. This is not feeling, this is fact, as Zach Mason ferreted out this bit of info:
For his career, Byron Buxton's wRC+ against the Mariners is 37 points higher than it is against all other teams. (Before that home run.)— Action Zach (@RealZachMason) June 14, 2022
That immediately put the Mariners in a 2-0 hole and it looked like things might get worse from there, as Flexen needed 45 pitches to get through his first two innings. Flexen was struggling to land both his changeup and his cutter, and as both of those pitches are integral to balance out his less-than-spectacular fastball, it was looking like it might be a short night for him. But to Flex’s credit, he hung tough, found the cutter, at least, and gritted through five innings, at least somewhat salvaging the bullpen for the remainder of the series and a lengthy series with the Angels right behind that. Both Flexen and Marco seem to be following a pattern lately where they get roughed up early and then settle into a groove after that, which causes their starts to feel disproportionately bad when they are, on balance, pretty good; it’s a vertigo-inducing feeling, like rising from one’s sickbed too quickly. Tweet with caution in the early innings of a Flexen/Marco start, is my advice.
Also, another typically sore point, the bullpen gets credit tonight for holding the potent Twins offense to just one run among them. Penn Murfee went Dracula Mode in a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout in relief of Flexen and maybe it is time to start letting Murfee have a little more higher-leverage work? Although maybe they’re trying to give Penn less stressful innings so they can continue to run him out there seemingly every day. Murfee has appeared in 21 games since being recalled, which puts him only behind Sewald, Muñoz, and Castillo for appearances, despite having only been with the team since essentially May 1. A lot of mileage being racked up on the Murfmobile, is what I’m saying.
The weak spot in the bullpen was again, Sergio Romo, who allowed a hit and a walk and required Ryan Borucki to come bail him out, which he did not entirely do, allowing a hit to the first batter he saw, a stupid little shift-beater on a poorly-located slider to Max Kepler that scored the Twins’ third run of the game. However, Borucki also recorded two outs, one on a strikeout of Sánchez where he made El Gary look El Silly chasing after a pair of changeups—a pitch that I noted in my writeup of Borucki that would be a key to him being able to get right-handers out. Borucki also got José Miranda to fly out on a changeup, so so far, so good on that front.
The back end of the bullpen slammed the door on any further Twins’ scoring opportunities with some emphasis: Andrés Muñoz followed that up with his most dominant inning I can remember in a while; sure, he was working against the middle-bottom of the Twins’ lineup, but the slider was on point and the fastball actually seemed to have some movement to it rather than being arrow-straight. Matt Festa had the ninth and absolutely bulldozed MVP favorite Buxton and perpetual pest Correa on six pitches, three apiece, both swinging strikeouts, before getting Max Kepler to pop out easily to end the inning. It’s not hard to squint and see this bullpen stringing together some good outings in the future if every guy who appeared tonight can be this guy consistently. (Lookin’ at you, Muñoz.)
Unfortunately, all this pitching eptitude was wasted in another fit of offensive ineptitude. Once again, the run-scoring came from the bottom of the lineup, with Dylan Moore kicking off the Mariners’ scoring in the third when he stamped his tiny foot and demanded a catcher’s interference call, which he was awarded.
Go on, DMOBP. DMo then used his speedy little rabbit legs to hustle to third on a Jesse Winker single, and scored on a Ty France “single” that had double play written all over it but was hit at an odd enough angle that Gio Urshela couldn’t handle it and wound up making a play with the same gracefulness quotient as when the zoo gives the panda bear a special Fourth of July watermelon:
Unfortunately, that would be it for the Mariners, who couldn’t get much of anything else going off Chris Archer in his four innings, and got absolutely shut down by the Twins’ powerful bullpen, with one shining exception:
Taylor Trammell with a deep blast! pic.twitter.com/yFiv4SRvcD— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) June 14, 2022
And that would be it. If you’re an optimist, you could look at this game and praise the strong pitching performances holding the powerful Twins’ offense to just three runs, and be pleased that that Mariners came within a run. If you’re a pessimist, you could look at this game and be frustrated that once again the feast-or-famine offense underperformed, and the one-run sickness seems to be one these Mariners are very slow to bounce back from. If you’re me, you’re just glad this game is over and it’s time to retreat back to bed with a hot compress and some tea and hope tomorrow the cobwebs clear a little more quickly.