Kyle Seager’s recent slump is now a memory, Chris Flexen continues to redefine his best outing as a member of the Mariners with each start and Sam Haggerty earned himself some future playing time as they cruised to an easy 8-2 rout over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.
“Heck of a ballgame,” manager Scott Servais said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. A beautiful day here in Boston at Fenway and you go out and play a game like that. There’s a really good feeling in the clubhouse.”
With the win, the Mariners took a 2-1 lead in the four-game series against the American League East leaders. Seattle also improved to 13-8 on the season. It was the 15th time this season when the Mariners have scored four runs or more, and they are 12-3 in those games.
Facing a Red Sox lineup that came into the game averaging 5.33 runs per game and featured a .283 team batting average and an .809 on-base plus slugging percentage — all the highest in the American League — Flexen delivered a brilliant outing, pitching seven innings and allowing one run on four hits with a walk and a career-high seven strikeouts.
“I thought Flexen was outstanding today,” Servais said. “His ability to pitch north and south in the strike zone — the fastballs up and the breaking balls and cutters (down) and he had a really good changeup today against a very good lineup. I was really impressed with how he just kept attacking the strike zone. He didn’t back off all day.”
Seager collected three hits in his first three plate appearances — an RBI single, a two-run triple and a double — to lead an offense that banged around Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi early and finished with 12 hits, including five extra-base hits.
After the first game of the series in Boston on Thursday, Seager had just two hits in 36 plate appearances over his previous nine games played. But he had two hits — an RBI single and a three-run homer — in Friday’s loss. He has five hits and seven RBI in his past two games. Seager is also hitting .600 with runners in scoring position.
Seager’s triple into the unique triangle area of center field and his double high off the wall in center were scalded. Per Statcast, the triple had a distance of 408 feet while the double had a distance of 420 feet.
“He probably should have had a couple homers,” Servais said. “That’s a long ways out there — 420 (feet) to center field. He was right on the fastball today in different parts of the strike zone. It’s huge to get him going. And certainly our offense really rolls when he’s swinging the bat the way he is.”
Haggerty, who made the start in left field, also had three hits and two RBI, including a solo homer over the green monster in the eighth inning and a hustling infield RBI single in the ninth.
“He is swinging a really good bat right now,” Servais said. “But it’s all the little things he’s doing. He knows the strike zone very well. He’s willing to take a walk when it’s there. And we know how he can run the bases and he’s got some defensive versatility as well. We will give him more opportunities. No question about that.”
Relying heavily on his cut fastball (cutter) and fastball for 60 of his 88 pitches and sprinkling in just enough curveballs and changeups to keep hitters off balance, Flexen generated 17 swings and misses on pitches.
“He had more swing and miss on his four-seam fastball than he typically does,” Servais said. “When it’s got a little ride on it, it’s really effective. It opened some things up for him. Guys don’t chase a lot off the plate and (Boston) does not through the middle of the lineup. But up and down, they will once in a while and he took advantage of that today.”
Having struggled at the MLB level with the Mets and then changing his body, his pitch repertoire and mindset pitching in Korea last season, Flexen seems to be generating confidence and understanding his pitching identity at the MLB level.
“Each time I’m continuing to learn, develop, continue to gain confidence, trust myself, sticking with the plan and keep keeping the same mindset every time I go out,” Flexen said. “And that’s win a ballgame.”
His only run allowed came in his last inning. Rafael Devers scored on Marwin Gonzalez’s RBI single. Over the first six innings, Flexen allowed just two hits.
“It definitely shows that it’s paying off, the work that I’ve put in to get better,” he said. “Each week, each bullpen session I’m always trying to get better and continue to build off these outings.”