If you’re very fortunate, you have had a classmate, coworker, or community member like George Kirby. Someone who shows up on time, has extra printouts of their notes, and is willing to ask the questions of the teacher everybody else would get in trouble for. Perhaps some of you are the George Kirby. One of you is actually George Kirby! We appreciate you, is what we’re trying to say, and if this is what we have to look forward to in 2023, the Seattle Mariners are going to really appreciate the sophomore campaign of Kirby as well.
The M’s young fireballer was efficient as usual, working five innings with just a single walk, nine (!) strikeouts, and no hits. Even with a zone that, while hard to gauge from the off-angle TV broadcast, seemed occasionally to clench tighter than he or Cal Raleigh expected, Kirby mixed his pitches and pounded corners like he has his entire career. The only threat he faced was borne of an uncharacteristic J.P. Crawford throwing error that allowed Miguel Rojas to reach second base on an infield grounder. The error came, surprisingly, not during the inning where Crawford was mic’d up mid-game and outlining his multiple UFO experiences, which the shortstop managed to actually fluidly field during, however Crawford and Kirby quickly built a tractor beam to rectify his mistake, backpicking Rojas at second base on a slick spin move to quell the threat. Simply put, a borderline flawless outing from Kirby who looks like he’s not missed a beat since the last time we saw him take the hill at T-Mobile Park.
Seattle’s offense came exclusively from center field, with the recently crowned cover athlete of Sports Illustrated knocking in three runs on a pair of doubles, saddling rotation contender Ryan Pepiot with a hard luck loss in an outing that the Dodgers’ righty frankly looked quite impressive. Another two runs scored in the bottom of the 7th on a well-placed single from Julio’s replacement, Leonys Martín, cushioning the lead further to 5-1 after some wildness (and lagging pace) from Diego Castillo allowed a lone run to cross in the top of the frame. Though it did not nab the runner, Castillo also executed a nifty pickoff move to second that was a fun little treat at least.
Several starters got three or four plate appearances, though only Eugenio Suárez and AJ Pollock made much of their plate appearances. In position battles, Mason McCoy looked typically solid defensively, and drew a walk in his lone late plate appearance, stealing a base to boot to set up scoring on Martín’s single. Cooper Hummel only got a couple cracks at the dish, but he drew a walk and struck out. Bullpen southpaw Gabe Speier looked sharp, working around a well-placed infield single by Bradley Zimmer to harmlessly dispatch his frame, and towering Rule-5 pick Chris Clarke was similarly dominant with a 1-2-3 frame, continuing to thicken the plot on what Seattle may do with their final few bullpen spots. On nights that Kirby is pitching like this come the regular season, the M’s will have the luxury of not needing to dig too deep into that pen.