The story of today’s game most places is going to be the fact that all but one of the ten combined runs in this game was scored via the home run. The juiced balls are back, baby! But really, the story of this game for the Mariners was similar to what it has been all season: strong if not spectacular starting pitching, and lockdown defense from the Mariners, specifically from the infield, that kept the Nationals from getting anything going all game long.
But let’s start with the Mariners’ offensive parade, especially since that hasn’t always been the case this season. Nationals starter Josiah Gray has great stuff but struggled to command his pitches out of the gate, opening the game with a four-pitch walk to J.P. Crawford. Gray got lucky when Ty France squibbed a little groundout, but then walked Carlos Santana, setting up what would be the big blow for the Mariners offense today:
AYYYYugenio. He crushed this middle-middle fastball 111.4 MPH, 439 feet. When he hits ‘em they stay hit.
Gray would settle in after that, allowing a little more traffic in the second when Adam Frazier and Dylan Moore led off with base hits, but that was quickly wiped out by an ugly strikeout from Abraham Toro—already Gray’s third on the day, all equally rough-looking for the Mariners—and a J.P. Crawford GIDP. After that, Gray realized the Mariners were being aggressive on his heater and started pitching backwards, using his curveball and slider more heavily and striking out a pair of batters in a 1-2-3 third.
In the fourth, however, Jesse Winker found this slider from Gray to his liking:
Thumbs up for Jesse Winker pic.twitter.com/V8TGbBbdJV— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) July 13, 2022
Winker said in the postgame he’s made some “adjustments,” and that he spent a lot of his time while serving his suspension working on them, although he declined to get into specifics about what those adjustments might be. It looks like they’re working, though.
But wait! Adam Frazier has head the talk about upgrading at 2B, and he doesn’t like it one bit!
Frazier’s home run landed at a more petite 362 feet, but it’s a run on the board nonetheless. More encouragingly, Frazier’s bat seems to be emerging from its deep slumber lately. After a dreadful June where he posted a wRC+ of a whole 18, he has five hits over his last 20 PAs coming into today.
Meanwhile, Chris Flexen started strong, machining through the Nationals 1-2-3 in the first and tossing an eight-pitch inning in the second (with an assist from Adam Frazier tracking down a long flyout from Yadiel Hernández). He got into a little trouble with two outs in the third, allowing a couple of runners on base hits but worked his way around that by getting Juan Soto to tap out harmlessly on a cutter.
In the fourth, Flexen got an assist from his infield; despite allowing a couple of hard-hit balls, his infielders had his back. Ty France handled this hot shot off the bat of Nelson Cruz:
Ty France has been pretty mean to the other wearer of 23 today. This shot off the bat from Nelson Cruz was hit at 109.6 EV with an xBA of .730 pic.twitter.com/VXH5hfQqFF— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 13, 2022
And after Flexen struck out Yasiel Hernández, Abraham Toro made a nice sliding grab on a ball that came off César Hernández’s bat at 106 MPH (.570 xBA) to end the inning:
The Nationals finally got on the board in the fifth when Keibert Ruiz led off with an infield single, Maikel Franco was hit by a pitch, and Lane Thomas singled to load the bases with none out. Luís García hit a sacrifice fly to make it 5-1, and then Josh Bell grounded out softly to move the runners back into scoring position. After a couple of missed pitches to Juan Soto, the Mariners opted to just intentionally walk him to pitch to Nelson Cruz, a dangerous proposition. However, Flexen was able to get Cruz to ground out, although not with yet another strong defensive play from Ty France, this time handling a high toss from Crawford and bringing it down in time to get the inning-ending out.
Flexen also worked around danger in the sixth, working around a single and double to put runners at second and third with just one out before getting two weak contact outs to put a bow on his day.
After Hunter Harvey and Mason Thompson each shut the Mariners down 1-2-3, Ryan Borucki came in and got a pair of quick outs before walking Soto and being lifted for Andrés Muñoz. Muñoz, who rode the bullpart cart in, gave up a double to Nelson Cruz, but once again, the infield defense was there to bail out their pitcher, as J.P. Crawford noticed Juan Soto had strayed too far from third base and singlehandedly took him down:
That is some ground J.P. covers, and a series of excellent decisions executed by him in that moment to hold the Nationals at just one run. He’s just so much fun to watch and we shouldn’t ever take that for granted.
Andrés Muñoz taking the ride in the bullpen car immediately rockets him towards the top of my Favorite Mariners list pic.twitter.com/ZZ4seitgf8— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 13, 2022
Is riding in the bullpen cart correlated to throwing 100 MPH fastballs with run that batters chase after helplessly? If so then I expect we start to see a lot more players taking bullpen cart rides.
After the Mariners offense took a lil’ nap there in the middle innings, Cal Raleigh was the first to wake up, because it makes sense he would be. I bet on group trips Cal Raleigh is the first one up to make breakfast for everyone and also remembers to bring sunscreen and bug spray for everyone. The big brother vibes from Cal are palpable.
Cal Raleigh - Seattle Mariners (12)— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) July 13, 2022
That extra run from Cal would mean a lot—as would the run J.P.’s heads-up play saved—since Penn Murfee didn’t take ride in bullpen cart and thus got some terrible batted ball luck, with a pop up that Ty France just missed bringing in and a single from Luis Garcia that just evaded a leaping Abraham Toro. There was nothing unlucky about Juan Soto taking a hanging slider deep, however, which all of a sudden made that Raleigh homer less icing on the cake and more nourishing life-giving cake. Paul Sewald came in to get the last out, an easy flyout from Cruz, to secure the Mariners’ nine-game win streak, their longest since 2003. Fun times! Now to take a brief baseball nap and get ready for the next game, starting here at 3:05 PT.