With starter Chris Flexen on the mound and a bullpen ERA ranked fifth in the American League, the Mariners may have had a formula to slow down streaking San Diego on Friday night at Petco Park.
That wasn’t how things panned out.
With a 16-1 loss, Seattle suffered its eighth defeat in the past 10 games. Manager Scott Servais said in his postgame Zoom session that it was one of those games that are bound to happen a few times every season.
“It's one of those games best off not diving too deep into it. Get in the shower, go to bed, come back and get them tomorrow,” Servais said. "One thing you need to do as a professional baseball player, you need to compartmentalize. You need to kind of set it aside. … Because if you can't compartmentalize and it takes up too much of what's going on between your ears, you're not going to perform very well.”
The Mariners’ rollercoaster season took another drip on Friday, when four relief pitchers were placed on the injured list because of COVID-19 protocols. It seemed fortuitous that the roster shuffle occurred on Flexen’s watch -- he had held opponents to one run of fewer in four of his first seven starts, and the Mariners were 6-1 in his starts.
If he were able to take the bulk of the innings Friday to save a rather young and new bullpen, Seattle would be better prepared to battle San Diego over the course of the weekend series. Instead, Flexen’s shortest start of his career brought out five Mariners relievers who combined for eight earned runs over 6 1/3 innings.
“The Padres are very patient; they swing the least of anybody in the Major Leagues,” Servais said. “They're going to grind you out, they're going to make you throw the ball over the plate. So not only do you have to get it over the plate, you have to have quality stuff.
“We were not in good counts all night. They took advantage of it. They were all over [Flexen] early. He did not have his A game tonight, really his B game, either, and that's why he wasn't able to get through the lineup, not even twice.”
From then on, Flexen couldn’t settle into a rhythm. The right-hander threw 41 pitches in the first inning as the Padres scored four runs before they recorded their second out. Even with San Diego sending nine hitters to the plate in the first inning, Flexen came out for the second. He didn’t last long.
"[We were] trying to stretch the game out a little bit more out of our starter based on knowing a lot of young guys in our bullpen tonight who just flew in, based on everything else that's happened with our club,” Servais said. “The game got away from us.”
Flexen was removed after Tommy Pham hit a two-out, RBI triple. Flexen was tagged for a career-high eight earned runs on 10 hits and struck out one hitter. Among his 67 pitches, he recorded five whiffs in 30 swings from the Padres.
“I felt my stuff was good, [but] my location was terrible,” Flexen said. “I threw a lot of borderline pitches that they either took or was able to find a hole, and then when I missed over the plate, I got hammered. That's a good-hitting team, and that's what you're supposed to do with those kinds of pitches.”