All-around effort lifts Seattle in blowout win

Flexen delivers Mariners' best start 'all year' as offense breaks out

June 16th, 2021

It was an all-around performance on Tuesday at T-Mobile Park, and it led to the Mariners’ most dominant win of the season.

pitched a shutout over a career-high eight innings. ’s hot streak this month has reached murmurs of All-Star mentions. Ty France crushed his first homer in nearly two months, further exhibiting his health after a right wrist injury.

’s long road to recovery reached a new pinnacle with a bases-clearing triple. And, batting in his new, albeit likely brief, spot in the No. 2 hole, Jake Fraley reached base twice, including once via -- guess what -- a walk.

Basically, everyone chipped in to a 10-0 win over the Twins that clinched the three-game series and pulled the Mariners back to within one game of .500 at 34-35.

Here’s a breakdown of the notable performances, why they mattered and what they mean moving forward:

New-look Flex
Since arguably the worst start of his career, Flexen has been arguably at his very best. At the very least, Tuesday represented the most dominant outing by any Seattle starter all season.

“Absolutely the best starting pitching outing we've had all year,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He just dominated the strike zone.”

Dating back to a May 21 outing in San Diego, when Flexen failed to make it out of the second inning, the cerebral, weak-contact-driven righty has pitched at least six innings in each of his four outings since.

Tuesday was the cream of the crop, but the underlying takeaway was how different he looked doing so. Flexen threw his changeup with much more intent than ever, opting for the offspeed (28 percent of his total usage) instead of his high-caliber breaking ball (16 percent). He also generated seven whiffs on the change, and it was essentially a reflection of all four of Flexen’s pitches being at their very best.

“That’s something I did work on,” Flexen said on his changeup’s improvement since San Diego. “I know it gets pushy at times. And I know the key for me is to throw it with more conviction and really get extended and have confidence in that pitch, and that's the biggest thing.

“When I shy away and don't feel confident, it becomes not a good pitch with all four. So, that was something that I know is a big pitch against righties and lefties. I know it's been very successful against lefties, and it just helps complement my arsenal.”

“He spun the ball pretty good,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He's got the little cutter and breaking ball. He actually had command of all his stuff now that I'm thinking about it. He threw the ball very well and he kept us in a tough spot the whole night."

On a related note, Servais mentioned pregame the Mariners’ success when their starter pitches at least five innings -- and that number checks out. They advanced to 29-16 in such outings, with wins in 12 of their past 14 such starts.

Welcome back, Shed
Long was just 3-for-20 since returning to the Majors after a nearly nine-month recovery from right shin surgery. So his triple off a hanging slider on his hands from former Mariner J.A. Happ was a weight off his shoulders.

More than anything, Long feels like his swing is back to where it was at the end of 2019, when he hit .289/.337/.518 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 23 cup-of-coffee games. Does he feel like he’s closer to getting to being that hitter again?

“Definitely, definitely,” Long reiterated. “I’m always thinking about it, just trying to get back to that guy. So, I mean, I definitely think that I'm getting close to that. I'm just working on a daily basis to continue to get there.”

Don’t forget about France, Fraley
France went 3-for-4, with his first homer since April 18 as well as a first-inning double off Happ that left his bat at 104.4 mph -- more signs that the Mariners’ best contact hitter from the early leg of this season has found his form.

“It was in the back of my mind, too,” France said of his homerless drought. “Just to get that out of the way, it feels nice. And just stringing some hits together, it feels good.”

And Fraley raised his on-base percentage to .487, continuing a promising trend for the left fielder, who will be ticketed for more playing time with Kyle Lewis sidelined.

J.P. continues to swing a hot stick
On the very first pitch of the game from the Mariners’ side, Crawford unloaded on a middle-middle 90.5 mph fastball from Happ for a 383-foot homer. The reigning American League Gold Glove shortstop now has four homers this season, and they’ve all come in similar sequences and dispensed into almost identical spots -- narrowly over the right-field wall.

Moreso, Crawford continues to thrive since moving back into the leadoff role on June 1. He’s hitting .392 (22-for-56) in that stretch.