Drayer: Mariners get rare form of triple play, nice debut from Chris Flexen in 3rd straight tie

Mar 5, 2021, 3:46 PM | Updated: Mar 6, 2021, 7:02 pm
Mariners Cal Raleigh...
Cal Raleigh had an RBI single for the Mariners on Friday. (Getty)

Scott Servais saw plenty of good in the Mariners’ 2-2 tie against the White Sox in seven innings Friday afternoon, but all of it took a back seat to what happened in the fifth.

Led by Kyle Lewis, the Mariners have the athletic outfield they’ve wanted

With the White Sox at the plate and reliever Domingo Tapia in a world of trouble with the bases loaded, nobody out and reigning American League MVP José Abreu at the plate, he got the ground ball he was looking for – and then some.

Walton to O’Keefe to Witte and back to O’Keefe. That’s a 5-2-3-2 triple play, which according to SABR is one of the rarest in the game with just five pulled off in MLB history in the regular season, the last by the Cubs in 1955.

“As we have seen from Tapia, the ball’s going to be on the ground,” Servais said. “When he’s out there pitching, he’s got a great arm, it’s like he’s throwing a bowling ball out there. The bottom is just dropping out of it and hitters are going to pound it into the ground. The defense is going to get a lot of action and we made a play for him.”

The gem came in a game which otherwise featured sloppy defense, with innings extended by plays not made. Early in spring training this can actually be a benefit for the pitchers who see limited innings. Chris Flexen, making his first start for the Mariners, got the opportunity for extra work in the second inning when a double-play ball off the bat of White Sox top prospect Andrew Vaughn bounced up the middle past hesitant dives from Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore and into center field. A run scored on the play and another on a bad throw to second by catcher Cal Raleigh, but Flexen rebounded to strike out the next three batters to end the inning.

“Early on you are trying to challenge yourself to see where you are at,” Flexen said after he came out of the game. “It’s nice to be able to work through those situations early on.”

Flexen showed all of his pitches in his two innings, with the fastball sitting 92-93 mph according to the Camelback Ranch radar gun. While he didn’t have a good feel for his curveball, he was able to work on his cutter/changeup combination early in counts and felt he came away from the outing with good to build on.

“Here it is, fill the zone, dominate the zone, continue to work on throwing secondary pitches for strikes early and often,” he said of his focus since coming to the Mariners. “That is something that when we go to review it, we will continue to work on.”

“I really liked what I saw,” Servais said. “I think he does it a little differently, he’s got the higher arm slot. We saw all four pitches today, maybe not as good of command with the secondary pitches but I really liked how he threw the ball. I think he’s got enough weapons to get through some lineups.”

Servais pointed to the work of the relievers as other highlights of the game, singling out work by Roenis Elías, who worked around another missed play, and Matt Magill, who had his first outing since shoulder debridement surgery last September.

Offensively, the Mariners manager was pleased with what he saw from Raleigh, who drove in a run in the third inning on a two-out single to right on a full count.

Servais also highlighted Kyle Lewis and Ty France, who each had two hits.

Jarred Kelenic did not record a hit but the report on him was good following a concerning moment in the second inning. He hobbled a bit off first base after reaching on a fielding error, drawing Servais and the trainer out to the field.

“Kelenic coming out of the box when he hit that bullet to the second base, I thought it might be a hamstring,” said Servais. “It was not. He tweaked his knee a little bit.”

Kelenic remained in the game, taking one more at-bat before being replaced by Julio Rodríguez in right field.

“That was about as convicted as I get to take him out of the game,” said Servais. “He was not going to have any part of that. He was OK. He wanted to get his at-bats in. The trainer felt good about it. We will see how he is tomorrow, if he is able to go, but I expect he will be fine.”

Coming off a third tie in as many days, the Mariners will be back at the Peoria Sports Complex hosting the A’s on Saturday. Justin Dunn will start with Nick Margevicious to piggy-back. The game can be heard live on 710 ESPN Seattle, with first pitch set for 12:10 p.m.

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Drayer: Mariners get rare form of triple play, nice debut from Chris Flexen in 3rd straight tie