Mariners collapse as they suffer 14-9 loss to Cubs

The Mariners storm out to an early 7-0 lead, before Chris Flexen falls apart in the third inning and the Cubs come back to win 14-9.

To say the Mariners have so far disappointed in 2023 would be stating the obvious. This doesn’t make it any less true though.

The rotation not performing to their expected level, an overworked bullpen and inconsistent offense have all contributed. In addition, the defense has been unusually sloppy, as the ballclub struggles through a poor start to the season.

Even the M’s ability to come through in close games has escaped them, with a 1-4 record so far in one-run games this year. This particular aspect was highlighted in the two previous games, a 7-6 loss to the Guardians and a 3-2 defeat to the Cub.

Despite all this, nothing could have prepared Mariners fans for what happened on Tuesday night. The historic Wrigley Field might have been a dream setting for a game of baseball, but the outcome was a nightmare for Seattle.

A hot start

Mariner’s third baseman Eugenio Suárez heads for home. ( must credit Liz Wolter/ Comverge Media)

It all started off so well, as the bats swung true and hard early on. Eugenio Suarez continued his hot start to the season with a two-run homer in the top of the first, to establish a 2-0 advantage for the visitors.

The top of the second saw the M’s explode on offense, with five more runs. Suarez contributed with his third RBI, as Seattle surged to a seemingly insurmountable 7-0 lead.

As a result, it forced the Cubs to take Hayden Wesneski out after pitching just 1.1 innings. You could have felt sorry for him in the moment, but any pity would ultimately be placed elsewhere.

The home side would score a run in the bottom of the second, to make it 7-1. However, there was no warning of what was to come in the following inning.

Chris Flexen had looked good in his first start as a replacement for the injured Robbie Ray. And his second start had begun well enough through two innings.

Flexen implodes

It all fell apart spectacularly in the bottom of the third however, as Flexen suddenly couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. His location was failing him and he kept falling behind in the count.

The Cubs took full advantage and scored three runs to get to within 7-4. It would have be so easy to take out Flexen at this point, as it was clear he was struggling.

Unfortunately for M’s manager Scott Servais, he was caught between a rock and a hard place. Saving Flexen from further punishment was compromised by not wanting to go too early to an overworked and undermanned bullpen.

Eventually the decision was made for Servais though, when Nelson Velazquez hit a grand slam home run. It gave the Cubs their first lead at 8-7 and mercifully ended Flexen’s evening.

Just for good measures, the Cubs added another run to make it 9-7 through three innings. In total, the home side had 13 batters reach base in the inning.

Speaking to the media after the game, Flexen was understandably annoyed by his outing. He said:

“It’s very disappointing. The guys jump out to a lead like that, and to not be able to hold it in that short amount of time is pretty embarrassing. I’m very frustrated, very disappointed.”

Flexen was well aware of what went wrong, but just couldn’t turn stop the bleeding. He said:

“I was behind a handful of times. It felt like every hit just found a hole and I couldn’t capitalize on the big out. They capitalized on the big hit. I couldn’t limit the damage.”

Servais didn’t attempt to sugarcoat Flexen’s outing. He said:

“Flex didn’t stay after it and stay on the attack. You have to stay on the attack and certainly, when you’re pitching on a night like tonight when the wind is blowing out, it’s warm and the ball is jumping. If you fall behind in the count or you’re walking anybody, it’s going to come back and bite you.”

Mariners bullpen issues

As much as the reason was known, Servais also made a point of explaining why he didn’t take Flexen out earlier. He said:

“We’re in a situation here where we have been running our bullpen really hard. If you can start pulling your starter in the second inning, you’re not going to have enough pitching to probably get through the ballgame with the way it was heading. I was hoping Flex could get through Velazquez. It was probably going to be his last hitter. Obviously (though), it ended up with a big swing and he hit the grand slam.”

The Mariners seemed to get some hope in the top of the fourth, courtesy of the suddenly hot Jarred Kelenic. His solo home run got the M’s to within 9-8, but ultimately they wouldn’t get any closer.

As per the aforementioned overworked bullpen, Diego Castillo and Jose Rodriguez couldn’t cool the Cubs’ bats. They combined to allow six hits, two walks and five runs in 4.0 innings, only striking out one in the process.

The Mariners did add one more run in the top of the eighth, courtesy of Ty France’s second RBI. This would end the scoring, as the Cubs won 14-9.

A loss for the ages

After falling to a record of 4-8, a clearly dejected Servais summed up the game with a couple of understatements. He said:

“The game flipped on us in a hurry … These games happen here once in a while.”

Once in a blue moon would seem more accurate. Seattle is the first ballclub since Sept. 27, 2001, to take a seven-run lead by the second inning and trail at the end of the third.

In addition, the M’s win-probability was calculated at 95 percent at the mid-point of the second inning. Long-standing fans are likely unsurprised that if any team was going to screw this up, it would be the Mariners.

Ultimately though, there is some solace in that this is just one game in a very long season. Of course, it will be interesting to see how Seattle rebounds after three straight gut-wrenching losses.

The season is young, and yet we are potentially already at a crucial point for the Mariners. It will be interesting to see how they respond, as it will tell us a lot about what this ballclub is made of.

Does the manner of the last three defeats concern you in the long run for this season? Or do you believe the Mariners are just suffering a temporary setback which they will rebound from, and return to contender status? Let us know in the comments section below.

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