Mariners: Flexen struggles again in 7-3 loss to Cardinals

While Chris Flexen was the main culprit in Sunday’s loss, there was plenty of blame to go around as Mariners fail to complete series sweep.

There comes a point when you just have to accept something isn’t working. The Mariners have surely all but reached that point with Chris Flexen.

Flexen entered Sunday aiming to improve on three consecutive poor starts. This had included a disastrous outing versus the Cubs, when he allowed 10 hits and eight earned runs in 2.1 innings.

However, any hopes of a positive start lasted exactly one pitch, as the 28-year-old gave up a lead-off home run blast. It wouldn’t get much better.

Flexen allowed three hits and a walk in the opening inning, but at least held the Cardinals to two runs. He managed to get through the second allowing no added runs, but the signs were ominous with St. Louis making regular contact with their bats.

Kelenic continues to thrive

There was a little hope, when the Mariners managed to put together some offense in the bottom of the second. Jarred Kelenic once more ignited the team, as he hit his team-leading sixth home run of the year.

Kelenic continues to show how much his offseason adjustments on offense have helped. Speaking about Sunday’s home run, he said:

“Just because it’s tough to take a down-and-in pitch oppo and when you can do that, you’re catching the ball deep and staying through it. So that’s ideally where you want to be. … I took a look, and it was basically in the same spot as it was (Saturday), just a different pitch. I’m in a good spot.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais also commented on Kelenic’s improved mechanics at the plate. He said:

“What made Jarred’s (special) is that it’s something he has worked at doing. Instead of rolling that ball over or trying to pull that ball or hitting it to the pull side. … He could not do that a year ago.”

The signs are that we’re now at a point where Kelenic’s improved hitting is here to stay. He leads the team in batting average, slugging percentage and a 1.043 OPS which is also eighth-best in the Majors.

Seattle then managed to load the bases with just one out. Ty France subsequently hit a two-run single, to give the home side a 3-2 lead after two innings.

Unfortunately for everyone concerned, Flexen failed to take advantage of the run support. First up he allowed a run in the top of the third, to tie the game at 3-3.

A costly mistake

Then came the fourth, in what would prove to be the righty’s final inning of the day, as he gave up another three runs. In fairness though, it wasn’t all his fault.

Seattle had a chance to get out of the top of the fourth without allowing a score. However, the chance at an inning-ending double play was thwarted, when the much maligned Kolten Wong dropped a throw from J.P. Crawford.

As a consequence of this, the next batter hit a three-run homer to regain the lead for St. Louis, at 6-3. There was just no way a crestfallen Flexen could continue after this.

As such, the former New York Met’s day ended after allowing nine hits and six earned runs in just 4.0 innings. He also gave up three walks, while striking out a trio of batters.

Flexen a liability in the Mariners rotation

There is no denying Flexen has been extremely useful during his tenure in Seattle. In particular, he was arguably the best member of the rotation in 2021.

However, you have to wonder how much longer the Mariners can continue to roll the Newark, California native out there. They have lost all four of his starts and it is an increasing detriment to the team.

One of the challenges is who to place in the starting rotation, with Robbie Ray not due back for roughly another month. Possible options include Tommy Milone or Emerson Hancock.

For Flexen’s part, he just wants the opportunity to turn things around. Speaking after the game, he said:

“I’m just going to continue to work hard. I’m putting in the work every day. It just hasn’t quite kicked in yet, but I’m going to continue to compete. … Hopefully I can turn things around here shortly.”

In this respect, it sounds like Servais doesn’t want to give up on him just yet. He said:

“We want to get him back going in the right direction. When you take the ball once every fifth day, the expectation is you want to get deeper in the ballgame. … He needs to be a little bit sharper and crisper, but he’s had a track record. He’s pitched very good for us in the past and we need him to get going.”

Following Sunday’s game, Flexen has a terrible 8.86 ERA and 1.97 WHIP. It is concerning his next start is scheduled versus a potent Blue Jays lineup.

Three hits don’t disguise Wong’s struggles

As much as Flexen struggled, Seattle’s offense failed to score outside of the third inning. One irony is that Wong was the best bat on the day for the Mariners, with three hits.

This doesn’t do much to improve Wong’s standing with fans however. He entered the game with just five hits on the season, and has a terrible .140/.231/.140 slash line even including Sunday’s performance.

The second baseman was meant to be an upgrade at the position, but he has no home runs and just three RBI to date. Sunday’s failure to complete the aforementioned double play didn’t help and there’s no denying how disappointing he has been.

Given that an already overworked bullpen had to make up for Flexen’s short start, they mostly did well in five innings. The only run allowed came from Diego Castillo, who is currently (also) struggling with a 6.23 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.

With the loss, the Mariners fall to 10-12 on the season. Speaking about the homestand which finished 5-4, Servais said:

“That was the ultimate roller-coaster ride. We came out great and played really good against Colorado. The Brewers series I didn’t think we played particularly bad, but we didn’t get any big hits. Where we’re at right now, we see some positive signs. Outside of Flex’s struggles, we have pitched very well.”

After Monday’s off-day the Mariners embark on a nine-game road trip, beginning with a series in Philadelphia. Logan Gilbert will take the ball on Tuesday, as Seattle focuses on returning to .500.

How much longer should the Mariners keep Flexen in the rotation? Who would you realistically like to see replace him in the starting five? Let us know in the comments section below.

3 Replies to “Mariners: Flexen struggles again in 7-3 loss to Cardinals”

  1. He is not a starter. Puts offense in hole right off the bat. Depressing for the players who are struggling scoring runs anyway.

    1. Some good points Barbara. As a whole the starting rotation is strong, but Flexen is definitely the weak link. As you say, the offense struggles enough as it is to score consistently.

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