Clean, efficient and without drama.
It was the type of victory expected for a team that has shown so much dominance over the other.
And the fact the Mariners’ 4-1 victory took only 2 hours and 22 minutes on a pleasant Fourth of July afternoon at T-Mobile Park, well, that was just a little extra ice cream on the postgame apple pie.
Chris Flexen delivered his usual strong start when pitching in Seattle and Luis Torrens and Shed Long Jr. provided all the offense in a game that never really felt as close as the score indicated.
With the victory, the Mariners have beaten the Rangers in 15 of their past 20 meetings, including 13 of the past 14 games at T-Mobile Park. The victory also gave the Mariners their third consecutive three-game series victory, which is a reason why they are now 45-40 on the season.
Seattle will have Monday off before opening a three-game series Tuesday against the Yankees.
“Good series for us, coming off a productive road trip,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “Maybe not the offense that we were able to generate over in Buffalo and Chicago, but I thought we pitched well in this series. We’ve got a day off and then we’ve got the Yankees coming in. And we are looking forward to that.”
With the Mariners’ six-man rotation whittled down to a five-man unit due to multiple injuries, Flexen was working on four days rest for the first time this season. But one wouldn’t have known it based on his performance. He pitched six solid innings, allowing one run on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts to improve to 7-3 and lower his ERA to 3.80.
“He was really, really sharp,” Servais said. “Going into the game, we talked about maybe limiting him and not trying to stretch him too far, but he was very efficient. I was fired up to see him get through six innings and only giving up one run.”
Flexen said he didn’t feel any fatigue from the shorter rest, but did notice it affecting his pitches late in the game.
“I still felt normal,” he said. “I think my stuff was starting to fade out a little bit. I wasn’t able to get to the locations I needed to. I still felt strong. I still felt good. I was just missing some locations.”
Seattle has won 11 of his 15 starts. And while teammate Yusei Kikuchi is a deserving All-Star, Flexen’s performance and consistency has been vital to the Mariners’ overall success.
“You know he’s going to give you a chance to win the game,” Servais said. “He’s always going to keep you in the ballgame. I’m really impressed with how he continues to develop. The changeup has become a real weapon for him against left-handed hitters. He attacks. He’s really bought into what we believe in here as far as dominating the zone and winning the 0-0 and 1-1 counts, it’s really helped him out.”
Torrens gave Seattle a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning. With one out and runners on first and second, Torrens stayed on a 96-mph fastball from Rangers starter Mike Foltynewicz, sending a long drive over the wall in right field for a three-run homer.
While Torrens’ homer drove in three runs, Long’s homer an inning later will steal all the highlights. The diminutive utility player flashed his unexpected power, attacking a 91-mph fastball from Foltynewicz and unleashing a vicious swing and sending a rocket past right field that bounced off the glass windows of the Hit It Here Café in the second deck. Long gave a long pause after contact, lifting the bat and standing on the plate for a moment.
“I knew it was going to stay fair,” he said. “I was just enjoying it.”
Long pointed to his family in the stands as he touched home plate.
“They loved it,” he said. ” I gave the ball to my grandmother. She was here. That was awesome. So that was definitely for her. It’s crazy because she’s only saw me play in person one other time when I was in Long-A in Dayton, Ohio. And that day I hit a homer too. So I told her she’s got to keep coming.”
Flexen’s only run allowed came in the sixth. He allowed a pair of hits to lead to some traffic on the bases with two outs. Adolis Garcia hit a soft dribbler to the left side of the mound that Flexen couldn’t field cleanly or remain on his feet. He tumbled to the turf and appeared angry and disgusted.
“That embarrassing, awful attempt,” Flexen said.
But he regrouped quickly and came back to strike out Joey Gallo swinging on a 3-2 changeup.
“I was more frustrated giving up the run and giving up a few consecutive hits there,” he said. “But that’s part of the game, and you’ve got to figure out a way to get it done. You’re out there with two outs and still in a situation where Gallo is at the plate and he’s a guy who can put the ball in the stands on any swing.”
Throwing a changeup in that situation speaks to his confidence in the pitch and the conviction to execute it.
“He did a really good job that at-bat forcing me to throw the changeup up higher in the zone,” Flexen said. “He took a lot of good pitches early in that at-bat that I executed really well and he sat on them. I just had the confidence to throw it 3-2 and was able to execute it.”
Meanwhile, the bullpen trio of Drew Steckenrider, Paul Sewald and Kendall Graveman each worked a scoreless inning to preserve the lead. Steckenrider and Sewald each got a “hold,” while Graveman picked up his eighth save of the season.