According to the Washington State Adult Sentencing Guidelines Manual, the worst thing you can do is commit aggravated murder in the first degree. But that’s wrong. The worst thing you can do is poop at a party. So after the Astros pooped all over the Mariners homecoming party after the All-Star Break and the Angels were last night’s party poopers in front of yet another packed house, it comes as a relief that the Mariners pulled out a win for a big crowd in today’s first game.
Perhaps inspired by the new clubhouse pup, the Mariners pitching staff got that dawg in them today and really put on a show for the 37,000 fans in attendance.
To be sure, George Kirby’s first several batters looked like a bad omen. Although he worked a clean first inning, Taylor Ward worked a full count, and fouled off two two-strike pitches and Shohei Ohtani similarly took seven pitches to retire. And the Angels worked some more cluster-luck nonsense to score a run in the second, leaving runners on the corners with just one out, and Kirby’s pitch count at 28.
But that’s when Kirby gave the Angels the ol’ SoDo Shutdown, getting Jose Rojas to strike out on a sinker, and blowing away Andrew Velazquez on a three-pitch, three-whiff strikeout.
That’d turn out to be the real sign of things to come, as Kirby would go on to a final line of six innings pitched with eight strikeouts, no walks, and just the one run on six hits. True, he had a little help from his friends.
But most impressive was Kirby’s 14 whiffs over just 80 pitches. Command pitchers tend to thrive on called strikes, and with 11, Kirby had his share of those too. But a 29% swinging-strike rate is another gear for the Westchester Wizard, even if it did come against the Angels.
Both Kate and Shay have spent parts of recent recaps fawning over Kirby’s new two-seamer. And they’re right, with Kirby getting a 35 CSW% on the pitch today, thanks largely to its bonkers 15 inches of run. But the underrated thing about a great new secondary is that it helps your primary pitch play up, as we can see from Kirby collecting six strikeouts on his va-va-voom four-seamer today.
Sometimes there’s a tendency with young pitchers to overreact to every start, but this continues a string of strong starts for Kirby. On July 9, Kirby was sent down to Tacoma to help manage his innings. But since coming back, and starting to regularly throw his sinker, Kirby’s thrown 15 innings and recorded 19 strikeouts to just two walks and 11 hits. Now that’s a hot dog.
On the other side of the ball, the Mariners only really had one notable sequence. Poor Jarred Kelenic has worked so hard to make his way back to the big league club. Determined to show his worth, he worked his ass off to get into scoring position, sprinting down the line to beat out a double play on a routine grounder. Still trying, trying so hard, Kelenic tried to take second base. It went the way things involving Kelenic usually do.
Woof. His face managed to knock the ball loose though, and he was safe. Staying heads up, he motored into third base on a borderline wild pitch. Go figure that all that work to get to third base and he could just jog home.
That’d be the Mariners only extra-base hit on the day. So for showing up while the rest of the hitters were distracted by Tucker, Ty France gets today’s Sun Hat Award.
That helped push Angels starter Jaime Barría out of the game on the early side, though to be fair, he is a reliever still being stretched out. And with Kirby having secured 18 outs to Barría’s 14, Scott Servais had the advantage when the game turned over to the bullpens. Matthew Festa came in first, and retired two before giving up a hit to Taylor Ward to put a runner on base for the Angels only serious threat, Shohei Ohtani. Nursing a one-run lead, Scott got aggressive and turned to Andrés Clemente Muñoz, who committed aggravated murder in the first degree.
When he came back out for the eighth, he easily struck out Luis Rengifo, but Jo Adell reached on a rare error from J.P. Crawford. With the go-ahead run at the plate, the Angels took a chance.
I’m trying very hard to be nicer, but I have no hesitation in laughing at Phil Nevin and the Angels coaching staff for allowing four outs on the bases in this series’ first two games. This play completed a three-strikeout, four-out hold for Muñoz. All that was left was for Erik Swanson to come in and lock down the save, which he did on six pitches, with a strikeout and two pop-ups. Hat tip to user Tuojiangoland for alerting me to the fact that this ties the record for most career saves by a player from North Dakota (with six). Congratulations, Erik!
In all, the Mariners pitching staff totaled 25 whiffs on just 112 pitches to complete the game. That leaves a relatively fresh bullpen for Game 2, which starts in about an hour. Good luck to the Angels hitters.
Which pitching staff should the American League be scared of? pic.twitter.com/2NXnHebTyd— Action Zach (@RealZachMason) August 7, 2022