My mother wasn’t the type to overly guilt me into finishing all the food on my plate, but she definitely taught me not to let things go to waste (once I had a can of SPAM for a skit at theatre camp and was dismayed when it found its way into a casserole later on that week). Maybe the Mariners’ mothers similarly instructed them in the importance of not being wasteful, if not in the art of being prompt, as the team managed to pull out of its tailspin long enough to preserve a memorable debut day for George Kirby.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kirby, who had his innings strictly monitored by the team last year after only pitching at the alternate site in 2020, and hadn’t gone past five innings in any of his starts so far this year for Arkansas. I probably shouldn’t have worried about this guy getting worn down, but the stress of MLB innings is a significant step up from carving through minor league hitters. Kirby made it look easy, however, turning in a season-high six innings and needing just 81 pitches to get there. He’s the first pitcher in franchise history to throw six scoreless in his debut, which is pretty impressive considering some of the pitchers who have donned a Mariners uniform over the years.
Kirby was dominant in his first inning, striking out the side, including getting Randy Arozarena on an ugly half-swing on 97 inside.
His fastball sat 97-98 over the first two innings before ticking down to 95-96 in the third and fourth, and then down again to 94-95 to the back end of his outing, but he was still able to rear back and get 96 to strike out Walls in the fifth.
I mean. Just look at this. Disgusting (in a good way).
George Kirby fastball/slider K overlay— David Adler (@_dadler) May 9, 2022
97.8 mph fastball vs. Ji-Man Choi
89.8 mph slider vs. Brandon Lowe pic.twitter.com/GOC6xUwOOO
Kirby stuck to the fastball and slider in the first inning, but then mixed in a changeup and a curveball starting in the third. He talked postgame about wanting to keep hitters off-balance and not getting too “fastball happy” and that certainly showed up later on in the game; even after falling behind 3-0, Kirby was willing to throw his slider or even his changeup to try to elicit weak swings or whiffs. He fell behind the first batter he faced, Brandon Lowe, 3-1, and then came back with two sliders—one that was fouled off, and one that Lowe swung over for the first of his seven strikeouts. The other strikeouts were all on the fastball, but by mixing his pitches effectively, Kirby was able to keep the Rays from being able to solely hunt for the fastball. He also got a pair of soft fly ball outs on the changeup in his last inning of work, which to me is every bit as impressive as the strikeouts, having the presence of mind and the confidence in that pitch to throw it in key counts.
Maybe the Mariners hitters were also too spellbound by Kirby’s outing, as they failed to score any runs in support of him. You’re truly a Mariner pitcher now, George. It looked like Jesse Winker and Luis Torrens were getting something going in the second with a pair of singles, putting runners on the corners with two outs for Dylan Moore, who I believe should be credited with a home run, I will not be taking further questions at this time.
In an alternate universe, this was a 3-1 Mariner win and George Kirby gets his first win and DMo gets to be the hero. pic.twitter.com/yBwVdK30oR— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 9, 2022
That came off the bat at 101.5 MPH and had an xBA of .720 and he didn’t even get a double out of it. Rude, universe. Likewise, Ty France had what was for most of the game the hardest hit ball at 107.5 (xBA of .700) that found its way directly into Wander Franco’s glove. Oh, and Jarred Kelenic was called out for stealing second on a completely borked replay call which is a whole separate issue, but anyway the point is that the Mariners were feeling especially cursed today, especially after Manuel Margot again hit a homer in the 8th off Erik Swanson that had today looking like a clear Rays victory and sweep of the Mariners. Mama told me there’d be days like this but she never told me exactly how many of them there would be in Mariners fandom.
While my mom never specifically lectured me about wasting food, I didn’t avoid getting that lecture entirely, thanks to a particularly memorable camp experience where they used to make us scrape our dinner plates into a giant tin pail which was then weighed and used to announce how much food we had wasted on the day and how many hungry families we could have fed. (Now that I type that out I realize how messed up that was? Like something Agatha Trunchbull would have done.) However, one cannot doubt its efficacy, as I now visualize that tin pail every time I consider chucking a lackluster dinner. Maybe Abraham Toro had a similarly harsh upbringing up in Canada, because he certainly was not willing to let George Kirby’s sterling outing go entirely to waste:
Hilariously, that ball was hit less hard and with less of an xBA than DMo’s Homer That Wasn’t, which proves that baseball, like real estate, is all about location, location, location.
Toro’s heroics (Toroics?) sent us to extras, where Paul Sewald took over, attempting to rebound from a heartbreaking outing on Friday night. I wish Paul Sewald had been my camp counselor instead, because he could teach efficiency without the lifelong scarring, working a clean inning (aside from an intentional and very deserved walk to Manuel Margot), stranding his Manfred Runner, and striking out pinch-hitter Yandy Díaz, with some emphasis:
As a reminder, Sewald and his wife Molly are donating money for each strikeout Sewald records this season to Eastside Baby Corner, and you can join him in pledging here.
The Rays were a perfect 3-0 in extra innings games this year, but we know how extra-innings games go on Sundays at T-Mobile. Something would have to give, and thankfully, it wasn’t the Mariners. Unsung Hero Dylan Moore laid down a bunt that moved Jarred Kelenic over to first, and then the Rays made the perplexing choice to intentionally walk Adam Frazier to get to Ty France. I know they were trying to set up the double play, and the BigRaysBrains probably had a bunch of numbers supporting the decision, but I say again: they walked Adam Frazier to get to Ty France, currently the league’s 20th-best hitter by fWAR. You know what Ty’s mama didn’t raise? A fool.
It’s Matt Wisler, you know you’re getting a slider, all you have to do is hit it, and Ty did. It’s a shame Kirby didn’t get the win but hey, pitcher wins are overrated anyway, and he got to do it in front of a rabid crew of friends and family all chanting “hip, hip, Jorge,” a chant that’s apparently been around since his Little League Days, on Mother’s Day, which is quite a debut outside of the historic aspect of it. So that’s some comfort, as is the win, which feels especially sweet this Sunday, just like my own sainted mother, who taught me many important lessons, but thankfully none that involved a tin pail.