Mariners hit homers, skip second step, win, beat Nationals 6-4

The story of today’s game in most venues will be the fact that all but one of the ten combined runs in this game came from the home run. Juiced balls are back baby! But really, this game’s story for the Mariners was similar to what it’s been all season: strong, if not spectacular, early pitching and a lockdown defense by the Mariners, particularly from the infield, that kept the Nationals from doing anything all game to move long.

But let’s start with the Mariners’ offensive save, 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 JP Crawford. Gray got lucky when Ty missed a small groundout for France, but then Carlos Santana walked out and set up the big hit for the Mariners offense today:

AYYY Yugenio. He smashed that middle fastball at 111.4 MPH, 439 feet. If he hits them, they stay hit.

Gray would settle in after that, allowing a little more traffic in the second half as Adam Frazier and Dylan Moore led with base hits, but that was quickly erased by an ugly strikeout from Abraham Toro – Gray’s third of the day, all equally roughly after the Mariners looking – and a JP Crawford GIDP. After that, Gray realized the Mariners were being aggressive with his heater and began pitching backwards, using his curveball and slider more heavily and hitting a pair of batters in a 1-2-3 third.

In the fourth, however, Jesse Winker found this slider from Gray to his liking:

Winker said in stoppage time that he had made some “adjustments” and had spent a great deal of time working on them while serving his suspension, although he declined to elaborate on what those adjustments might be. But it looks like they’re working.

But wait! Adam Frazier started the conversation about the upgrade at 2B and he doesn’t like it one bit!

Frazier’s home run landed at a petite 362 feet, but it’s still a run on the board. What’s even more encouraging is that Frazier’s bat seems to be waking up from its deep sleep lately. After a terrible June in which he posted a wRC+ of a whopping 18, today he has five hits over his last 20 PAs.

Meanwhile, Chris Flexen started strong, working his way through the Nationals 1-2-3 in the first and throwing an eight-pitch inning in the second (with an assist from Adam Frazier, who spotted a long Yadiel Hernández flyout). He ran into some trouble with two outs in the third and allowed a couple of runners on base hits, but worked around it by getting Juan Soto to harmlessly tap a cutter.

In the fourth, Flexen got an assist from his infield; Though he allowed a few hard-hit balls, his infielders had his back. Ty France handled that hot shot off Nelson Cruz on the first go:

And after Flexen hit Yasiel Hernández, Abraham Toro made a nice sliding grip on a ball coming at 106 MPH (.570 xBA) from César Hernández’s bat to end the inning:

that was an end

The Nationals finally got on the board in the fifth as Keibert Ruiz led with an infield single, Maikel Franco was hit by a pitch and Lane Thomas filled the bases with a single out. Luís García hit a victim fly to make it 5-1, and then Josh Bell touched down softly to get the runners back into goal position. After a few missed pitches for Juan Soto, the Mariners opted to just deliberately lead him to Nelson Cruz’s pitch, a dangerous proposition. However, Flexen was able to ground Cruz, though not with another solid defensive play from Ty France, this time with a high toss from Crawford that tripped him in time to reach the end of the innings.

Flexen dodged danger in the sixth too, dodging a singles and a doubles to take the runners up to second and third with just one out before getting two weak contact-outs to bow his day.

After Hunter Harvey and Mason Thompson each knocked out the Mariners 1-2-3, Ryan Borucki came in and hit a couple of quick outs before walking Soto and being raised for Andrés Muñoz. Muñoz, who drove in with the bullpart wagon, doubled against Nelson Cruz, but once again the infield defense was there to save their pitcher when JP Crawford noticed that Juan Soto had strayed too far off third base , and single-handedly brought him down :

That’s some JP covers and a number of excellent decisions he made in that moment to keep the Nationals at just one run. He’s just so much fun to watch and we should never take that for granted.

Does driving the bullpen cart and throwing 100 MPH fastballs correlate with a run that batters helplessly chase after? If so, then I expect we’ll see a lot more players doing bullpen cart rides.

After the Mariners offense took a little nap there in the middle innings, Cal Raleigh was the first to wake up because it made sense he would. I bet when traveling with groups, Cal Raleigh is the first to cook breakfast for everyone, and remember to bring sunscreen and bug spray for everyone, too. Cal’s Big Brother vibes are palpable.

That extra run from Cal would mean a lot – as well as saving the Runs JP’s heads-up game – as Penn Murfee wasn’t in the bullpen wagon and was so terribly lucky with the batted ball, with a pop-up, the Ty France narrowly missed contribution and a single by Luis Garcia who just dodged a jumping Abraham Toro. However, there was nothing unfortunate about Juan Soto taking a hanging slider deep, suddenly making this Raleigh homer less icing and more nutritious, life-giving cake. Paul Sewald came in for the final out, a slight flyout from Cruz to secure the Mariners’ nine-game winning streak, their longest since 2003. Fun times! Now take a quick baseball nap and get ready for the next game, which starts here at 3:05 PT.

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