Look, everything sucks right now. Summer is MIA. Gas is expensive, the roads are snarled with construction, and plane travel is a nightmare, so you can’t go anywhere that’s not your own stupid town with its own stupid weather. The Mariners are playing an especially despicable brand of baseball right now. The state of the world is [gestures at everything]. Everything is bad, including for me personally, as the ‘rona finally caught up with me and I have spent this week feeling pretty lousy. I am going to hazard a guess that if you have clicked to read a Seattle Mariners recap about a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California, things aren’t going great for you, either, or maybe you’re just morbidly curious about how the Mariners lost to the Angels, a team that has spent the last few weeks being the laughingstock of baseball after their fall from early-season grace.
So let’s just get the bad part out of the way first, and then focus on the good parts, because honestly, there’s a time for wallowing but I have limited energy this week and am unwilling to spend it on wallowing about the Seattle Freaking Mariners. Not when George Kirby deserves many flowers for what he did tonight, even in a losing effort. But first, the bad.
You have already surmised that the Mariners did not score against Ohtani. They had a chance to; Ohtani was not his usual buzzsaw self early on. He needed 40 pitches to clear the first two innings and struggled with commanding his fastball, spiking it often into the left-hand batters’ box. The Mariners’ best scoring opportunity against Ohtani was in the first, when with two outs, Jesse Winker walked, Eugenio Suárez hit a broken-bat single, and then Ohtani threw a wildly wild pitch, moving both runners into scoring position before Cal Raleigh lined out to end the inning. Boo.
The Mariners got a little more traffic against Ohtani in the later innings, but Ohtani mostly settled down after that rough start. The second-closest they came to scoring against him was in the sixth, when Winker walked again (he had both of Ohtani’s walks on the day) and Suárez again barreled up a ball (107 EV) that the marine layer un-luckily knocked down, which could have tied the game but if wishes were horses, etc. etc.
What’s annoying, though, is in an alternate timeline, that Suárez hit maybe ties up the game, and maybe there’s a different conversation about tonight’s game, where George Kirby outdueled Ohtani everywhere except on the scoreboard.
George Kirby, K'ing the Side. pic.twitter.com/MBIGQvNiEf— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 17, 2022
Ohtani was able to use his slider to great effect against the Mariners, mowing them down with a 37% CSW rate, but he had to lean on that slider heavily, especially early as the fastball command wasn’t there. Kirby’s fastball was almost as good as Ohtani’s slider, with a 35% CSW rate; the difference is he was able to throw it much more often for strikes, giving him a total called strikes + whiffs on the pitch of 18. Kirby also featured his curveball more often than we’ve seen it as a pro, with a CSW% on the pitch of 32%. Ohtani had 25 total called strikes and whiffs while Kirby had 29, and Kirby also threw more of his pitches for strikes, and more first-pitch strikes, setting him up in better counts.
Here Kirby is getting Max Stassi to swing at a curve with some beautiful late bite:
The difference tonight, unfortunately, came down to experience. Kirby is in his first year in the league, and still figuring out his pitch mix. While Kirby’s curveball was excellent for him tonight, as was the changeup, he really struggled to land his slider, getting just two whiffs on the 13 he threw with no called strikes. It just wasn’t close enough to the zone to tempt the Angels batters, although to Kirby’s credit, he kept trying to work it back in and get a handle on it. Unfortunately, that came back to bite him in the third; after getting two quick outs, Kirby started trying to work on the slider against Taylor Ward, getting into a 2-0 hole with two missed sliders before trying to get back into the count with a 96 MPH fastball, which Ward redirected into right field. That brought up Mike Trout, and you already know how this ends. Bizarrely, Kirby chose to try the slider again against Trout, whom he’d walked last time up on five pitches, all above the zone. That put him in a 1-0 hole, and then a location miss on 95 that landed right in Trout’s favorite lower-middle quadrant of the weather map put the Mariners in a 2-0 hole. Sigh.
To his credit, Kirby came back with a much better game plan against Trout the next time he saw him, spotting up his best secondary of the night in a curveball right on the black (assisted with the gentlest of frames from Cal Raleigh) before finally getting that fastball at the top of the zone to land exactly where he wanted it to be tempting to Trout:
Obviously, with the state of the Mariners offense, that is all the Angels would have needed on the night, but Sergio Romo went ahead and took some of the pressure off Kirby by surrendering a two-run home run to Trout of his own. Veteran leadership, right there.
The Mariners did, after 17 scoreless innings, finally manage to score against Angels reliever Ryan Tepera. Dylan Moore activated the latest tool in his offensive arsenal, getting hit by pitch, although this reaction shot led me wondering if DMo is maybe not playing the 3D chess I thought he was:
J.P. Crawford then doubled Dylan home, which could have started a rally if the rest of the lineup hadn’t had all their bats fall in Dr. Doom’s Dip.
Whoops, sorry, wrong image.
J.P. with an RBI double to get us on the board pic.twitter.com/m74uuALX7k— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 17, 2022
At least we have J.P.
It’s frustrating to lose to essentially two players in Trout and Ohtani—really, more Trout than Ohtani—but that’s what generational talents do. The Mariners just don’t have that star power, especially missing Ty France from the lineup. But George Kirby tonight went toe to toe with one of the game’s stars, and by many metrics out-dueled him. It’s tiring, as a Mariners fan, to continually have to accept these cold comforts and moral victories and small crumbs of satisfaction, but it’s even more tiring, to me, to have the thing I like to use for entertainment and escape actively make me miserable. So congratulations George, hip hip Jorgé, I will not be Kirb-ing my enthusiasm about your career any time soon.