Don’t try to figure out baseball, because you can’t.
Take Friday night for example.
The Mariners were coming off two demoralizing losses to a rebuilding Oakland team and facing first-place Houston’s Justin Verlander, who was leading the major leagues with a 1.22 earned-run average and had not allowed a run in his previous three starts.
So what happens?
Julio Rodriguez and Kyle Lewis belted two-run homers in the first inning, Ty France and Taylor Trammell also homered off the Astros ace, propelling the Mariners to a 6-1 series-opening victory Friday night at T-Mobile Park.
Verlander entered the game with a 2-0 record against the Mariners this season and had not given up more than three runs in any of his eight starts this year. On Friday, he allowed four runs just five batters into the game.
“There has been no hotter pitcher in the league than Verlander,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, whose team improved to 19-27 and moved out of last place in the AL West. “He has just been off-the-chart. Very consistent and on top of his game every time out. Our plan tonight was to be aggressive. You will get a pitch to hit in each at-bat — probably. … But you can’t miss it.”
The Mariners often swung at Verlander’s first pitch and often got good results, including three of their home runs.
After a sharp one-out single in the first inning by France, Rodriguez directed the first pitch he saw from Verlander into the right-field seats for his third homer in the past four games.
“I can’t say enough about Julio Rodriguez,” Servais said. “Wow. We’ve been scuffling and he walks up in the first inning and hits an opposite field home run off one of the best pitchers in the league.”
After a walk to J.P. Crawford, it was Kyle Lewis’ turn. Verlander hung a slider and Lewis crushed it 441 feet into the left-field seats and a 4-0 Mariners lead.
It was Lewis’ first home run since May 28 last year. He returned this week after not playing since injuring his knee May 31.
“I am happy for Kyle,” Servais said. “It’s a struggle when you are out that long and you don’t know when you are going to get back. When he hits them, you know they are gone. It’s got that kind of thump.”
Verlander’s season ERA jumped to 1.88 after just one inning.
Don’t try to make sense of it. It’s baseball.
Mariners starter Chris Flexen entered the game with a 1-6 record and had gotten almost no offensive support — five runs in his first seven starts — until he could not hold a 5-0 lead at Boston in his previous start.
Flexen did a much better job with the lead this time. He allowed nine base runners, but he worked out of some jams and showed the grit he did last year when he led the Mariners with 14 victories.
But none of those wins came against Houston, with Flexen being 0-5 with a 6.16 ERA against the Astros.
Flexen’s history didn’t matter Friday night as he allowed one run on seven hits and two walks. He struck out seven.
“That’s the best outing he has had all year,” Servais said. “That’s how he looked last year. He was totally in command, dominating the strike zone and going right after guys.”
Said Flexen: “I just tried to flip the script because I’ve been struggling lately. I tried to get back to how I was last year and be a better competitor.”
Verlander’s history also didn’t matter. He allowed three hits in eight scoreless innings in a 4-0 win against Seattle in April at T-Mobile Park — and Friday he allowed four homers for the fourth time in his career and for the first time since 2018.
France joined the Mariners homer parade when he led off the third with a 420-foot drive to center field. The Mariners had Verlander in trouble again in the fourth and fifth innings but could not add to their 5-1 lead.
But they did in the sixth. Trammell, who had the Mariners’ first bunt hit of the season in the fourth inning, led off the bottom of the frame with a 392-foot drive to right-center field.
Verlander made it out of the inning despite allowing two more hits, but enough damage had been done. He allowed six earned runs in six innings, gave up 10 hits and a walk and also hit a batter. He struck out six.
Two weeks ago, the Mariners were able to get another win off one of the game’s best pitchers, winning 2-1 on the road while facing the New York Mets’ Max Scherzer.
Seattle was unable to sustain any momentum from that, going 3-9 after that victory heading into Friday night’s game.
Will this latest big win lead to a turnaround for the Mariners, who have not won consecutive games since winning four in a row from April 22-26?
“It’s a good way to start this series,” Servais said. “Now we’ve got to keep it going. We’ve had flashes here and there where we’ll play a good game but then it gets away from us. … We’ll see how we respond tomorrow.”