Mariners get up to no good in America’s Finest City, win big behind strong effort from Flexen, young stars Rodríguez and Raleigh
Maybe it’s the tongue-in-cheek forced rivalry between the two clubs, maybe it’s the fact that the Padres and Mariners share a facility in Arizona and see a lot of each other, but there’s something about a series against the Padres that always feels a little more familiar than a random interleague series. Today the Mariners visited their cousins down south and despite the Padres possessing the better record and better weather, the scrappy cousins from the Upper Left took over the family barbecue and defeated the Padres in their own backyard.
The Mariners took advantage of a not-settled-in Sean Manaea in the first, jumping on him for two runs after J.P. Crawford (welcome back) and Eugenio Suárez hit back-to-back singles and Carlos Santana took a four-pitch walk to load the bases with one out. Cal Raleigh got over-anxious again and went after the first pitch he saw, which was luckily just a fielder’s choice RBI rather than an inning-ending double play, and then Abraham Toro tattooed a double for the Mariners’ second run of the game.
It was a very pleasant change to see the Mariners score two runs immediately as opposed to the Oakland series, where it felt like they did all their run-scoring in the eighth inning and beyond, but it would be just a preview of coming attractions.
Armed with two runs of support right off the bat, Chris Flexen seemed eager to let his teammates know that literally all they have to do is give him the barest minimum of run support, spinning a gem where he didn’t even allow a batter to reach the first time through the order. The battery of Flexen and Raleigh took advantage of a wide, meandering zone from home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman, with Flexen complementing his usual barrage of weak contact with a season- and career-high-tying eight strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the Mariners offense, in a thrilling change of pace, kept piling on. After taking a comebacker off the calf off the bat of Carlos Santana in the third, Manaea came back out in the fourth. He might have wished he didn’t, as he will be an unwilling participant in every highlight show tonight:
*takes deep breath*
— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) July 4, 2022
The Mariners could have built this lead out even more, as Manaea continued to fight his command, allowing a single to J.P. Crawford after this—one of his three hits on the day, welcome back indeed to a fresh J.P.—and then issuing back-to-back walks to Suárez and Santana to load the bases for Cal Raleigh. That would be the end of Manaea’s day, who was yanked for former Mariner and noted South African Tayler Scott. This was already Cal’s second time up with the bases loaded on the day, and once again, he chased after the first pitch again, this time popping out harmlessly. No, Cal! Bad Cal! Toro then flied out in foul territory for three more LOBsters in the pot. Boooo.
But Chris Flexen saw that 4-0 lead as 40-0. He was zipping his fastball up at 94, mixing his pitches and executing—unlike last season, when he got lit up by the Padres in one of his worst starts ever. “They kicked my ass last year,” Flexen acknowledged in the post-game interview. Not so today, as Flexen exorcised those demons, protecting the Mariners’ lead long enough for his offense to score him even more runs.
Those runs would come in the sixth, after Tayler Scott and his slider had mowed through a good portion of the Mariners’ lineup. It started, as it so often does, with Julio, who reached when Manny Machado was a little too casual trying to throw out his countryman on a routine groundout. J.P. then came up with his third hit of the day with a sweet little scoop-swing single as Julio motored into third. Santana then walked, loading the bases for Cal Raleigh yet again. This time, Cal would not be rushed into anything. He laid off a slider, and suffered a called strike on a very low pitch to put him in an 0-2 hole. A defensive hack on another slider at the bottom of the zone kept him alive, and then Cal didn’t bite on a fastball at the top of the zone. Then, for reasons unclear, Scott decided to challenge the power-hitting Raleigh middle-middle with a fastball:
Here’s what that looked like live:
One of the most fun and rewarding things about watching young players is watching them learn in real time. After a couple of tough at-bats, it was thrilling to watch Cal turn this pitch around and break this game wide open, 7-0 Mariners. (Oh, and later he stole third off new pitcher Craig Stammen, The Slowest Pitcher Alive, just for good measure.)
The offense would add one more run on a wacky series of events that saw Carlos Santana—who had a really good day!—single and advance to second on a wild pitch, before the Mariners again took advantage of some poor fielding by the Padres as new pitcher Tim Hill failed to cover first on an Abraham Toro groundout, and then threw the ball away, allowing Santana to lumber home, much to the delight of his teammates.
Tommy Milone gave up a home run to Trent Grisham in the bottom of the ninth to let the Padres score a pair (Matthew Batten was on board with his first MLB hit), because the Mariners aren’t totally rude guests, but it was the very definition of garbage time points. The Mariners will pack up their Can Jam and cornhole sets and Kubbs and enjoy some well-earned watermelon and rocket pops tonight before facing off against the cousins again tomorrow at 1:10 PT.