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Mariners drop second game of spring to Angels, 5-1

Non-starters are non-starters on offense, pitch clock is not nice to young pitchers

Seattle Mariners Photo Day Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Alas, the Mariners (1-1) will not go undefeated in Cactus League play. Today’s spring training game wasn’t the most exciting of lineups—no Ohtani or Trout for the Angels, who don’t usually make the long trip to Peoria from Tempe Diablo, with the Mariners also resting their starters—but there was plenty of offense, at least from the Angels, and some uncharacteristically shaky early-spring outings from Mariners pitchers.

Marco Gonzales got off to a great start in the first, getting three quick groundouts, working so quickly the pitch clock couldn’t even keep up with him, at one time literally buckling the knees of new Angel Gio Urshela. Unfortunately, the second inning didn’t go as well for Marco; with a runner on (with a hit that might well not have been a hit in the shift era) he fell behind Jo Adell 3-1 before throwing a fastball that caught too much of the plate that Adell cheerfully deposited on the berm, giving the Angels a 2-0 lead. Former top prospect and new Angel Mickey Moniak shot a base hit up the middle (again, probably not a hit in the shift era), and former Mariner Kevin Padlo smoked a double off a poorly-located changeup. Former Astro and Kent alum Taylor Jones then parachuted a changeup into center field, scoring two more for a 4-0 Angels lead. Brett Phillips, being the nice guy he is, finally made the first out of the inning with a flyout to AJ Pollock in left, and Fletcher flew out to Cade Marlowe. The Angels then decided to test Cooper Hummel’s arm behind the plate, and he responded admirably, coming up firing to cut down Jones trying to swipe second. After the first inning took ten minutes combined, the top of the second took fifteen minutes, so I guess we’ll have either five minute innings or twenty-minute innings with no in-between this spring.

The Mariners offense, lacking any starters, struggled against every Angels pitcher, which is not a good feeling, spring training or not. Tucker Davidson, the return for Raisel Iglesias who is fighting for a spot in the Angels rotation, pitched two effective innings. The Mariners’ lone run of the day came from Cade Marlowe, who crushed a fastball off Jonathan Holder to the batter’s eye:

Meanwhile, the Mariners pitching staff wasn’t quite the buzzsaw we’re used to. Matt Brash was the next one up after Marco, and while he got Rengifo to fly out easily and Urshela to tap out easily to Evan White, he then walked Thaiss on four straight pitches and threw his first pitch to Adell to the backstop, allowing Thaiss to advance. He proceeded to walk Adell on four straight pitches, prompting a visit from pitching coach Pete Woodworth. Whatever Woodworth said worked; Brash then disposed of Moniak on three pitches, getting him swinging over a slider. Momentary loss of command aside, Brash hit 98 with the fastball and, during his at-bat, after two nasty sliders, Gio Urshela made a “oh no I’ve made a terrible mistake” face, so we’ll chalk this up as a mostly successful first spring outing for Brash.

In the fourth we got our first look at Rule 5 pick Chris Clarke, pitching for a spot in the 2023 Mariners bullpen. Kevin Padlo greeted him with a line-drive base hit, and Taylor Jones drove the first pitch he saw into the outfield. Clarke and Hummel then got crossed up, with Clarke throwing a slider to the backstop, allowing the Angels to score their fifth run of the day. An easy flyout from Phillips got Clarke his first out of the day, and then Evan White showed exactly how healthy he is by chasing down a nubber off the bat of Fletcher, aggressively tracking the ball almost to home plate and firing a seed to Hummel, who made a nice play of his own cutting down Jones trying to score.

Despite allowing another base runner on a ground ball base hit, Clarke was able to get Urshela to fly out to prevent further damage. With a fastball sitting in the lower 90s plus a slider that didn’t seem to be baiting a lot of hitters, it wasn’t the most impressive debut for Clarke, but perhaps Prelander Berroa unfairly set the bar high for debuts yesterday.

Matt Festa was next up and his inning was a bit of a mess from both a broadcast and a pitching standpoint. It was difficult to track the action of the inning as ROOT had an in-studio guest to talk about job opportunities with the Mariners, but things were moving quickly on the field with not one but two pitch clock violations committed in the inning, one by each side. After getting a quick out, Festa fell behind Adell 2-0, seeming to battle his slider command. However, he rebounded to get a strike, and then Adell got hit with an automatic strike, suddenly knotting up the count at 2-2. Is that why Adell chased the next pitch he saw from Festa, a not-particularly-well-located fastball? Hard to say, but this time it worked in the Mariners’ favor. In the very next at-bat, though, Festa got hit with an automatic ball of his own against Thaiss, as he seemingly asked for time and wasn’t granted it. In this game it felt like the downside of the pitch clock was really laid bare—if you’re a young pitcher battling your command, good luck. Despite the slider not really sliding, Festa was bailed out by yet another stellar defensive play by Evan White, who leapt to his left, smothering a sure double down the line and beating Thaiss to the bag easily.

The best outing of the day was turned in by waiver claim J.B. Bukauskas, whose delivery looks every bit as Byzantine as it did when he was in Arizona. Bukauskas got two quick weak-contact outs—one routine groundball to short (fielded well by Leo Rivas, in for McCoy) and a check-swing-stayed-fair roller to Mike Ford (in for White) at first—before striking out Phillips looking. Also fun: that inning was our first look at Harry Ford behind the plate, who looked good as he dealt with Bukauskas burying sliders every other pitch.

Tacoma Rainiers stalwart Darren McCaughahn held down the seventh and eighth innings, not exactly overpowering the Angels’ lineup of waiver claims and minor leaguers, but keeping them off the board nonetheless. Collin Kober had the ninth and bamboozled the Angels batters with his multi-speed breaking balls and sidearm delivery.

Compass Points of Interest:

  • Despite today’s game feeling longer at times than yesterday’s, it actually clocked in about ten minutes faster, at a speedy two hours and sixteen minutes.
  • Mason McCoy recorded all three outs in the first inning and the Mariners’ first hit of the day. McCoy was quietly very good in Tacoma last season and is a solid depth option in case Dylan Moore isn’t ready for Opening Day.
  • Sam Haggerty, making his first start of the spring, struck out in his first-at-bat but reached in his second, blooping a base hit into shallow left that David Fletcher Charlie-Browned off his glove. The shift ban giveth and taketh.
  • In an in-game interview, Scott Servais said that while Cal Raleigh’s thumb is fine, they’re conscious of what a long season it is and are planning to slow-play him this spring, also as a way to get Tom Murphy more reps. Sounds like we’ll be seeing a lot more of Cooper Hummel...and maybe Harry Ford?
  • Speaking of Ford, in addition to his appearance behind the dish, he reached base each time he came up to bat, working a walk and beating out an infield base hit.
  • Ford also showed off his wheels going from first to third on an Alberto Rodríguez sharply-struck single. Berto also made an excellent diving play in the outfield, slightly off-setting a disappointing off-season which saw him removed from the 40-man roster.
  • In his in-game interview, Marco Gonzales, who has apparently been hitting the gym hard this off-season, admitted he was disappointed with his performance last season and missing out on making a playoff start. “I wasn’t the best man for the job. I could look myself in the mirror and understand that.” Marco joked about his rough second inning, noting however much preparation you do in the off-season, nothing really prepares you for the adrenaline rush and exertion of facing real batters in-game.
  • Matt Brash said he was “down” in Buffalo for some time this off-season, in case you doubted his Canadian creds. Brash said this off-season he’s focused on trying to keep his slider at the upper-80s with the same shape, as he feels like that’s where he gets the most whiffs.
  • Soft-spoken and a little shy, Cade Marlowe is not the world’s most scintillating interview, but did drop this banger on his baseball philosophy: “Hit it hard, run fast, see what happens.” Indeed, Cade.