Good afternoon/early evening! It’s an absolutely gorgeous day in the Seattle area on this Friday before Memorial Day, also known as the unofficial opening of the summer season. Also a sign of summer: tonight is the Mariners’ first fireworks night of 2023. It’s also the sophomore run for the Mariners City Connect jerseys after their home debut, so between that and the Pirates, expect a lot of yellow in the ballpark tonight.
And if all that wasn’t enough excitement, tonight’s pitching matchup pits two potential Cy Young favorites against each other—the 27-year-old Mitch Keller vs. the 25-year-old George Kirby. Pitching nerds, keep your smelling salts handy.
Don’t know anything about the Pirates? Don’t fret, our Jake Mailhot has you covered with this delightfully nautical-themed series preview.
Mitch Keller is maybe the poster child for “development isn’t linear”; after struggling to some extent every season since he made his big league debut in 2019, the 27-year-old has put together the breakout season many dreamed on when the Pirates drafted him in the second round in 2014. Keller throws three variations on the fastball—a four-seamer, cutter, and sinker—and throws them all frequently, over 20% of the time, rounding out his arsenal with a curveball and a swing-and-miss sweeper. He’s been among the game’s best at limiting hard contact, so the Mariners are going to have to string together some solid at-bats against the potential Cy Young contender.
But the Mariners will be buffered by their own Cy Young contender, going up against a lineup that’s scuffled some since getting off to a hot start to begin the season. Preemptively asking the hitters to get Kirby some run support tonight. We know this lineup can hit a fastball; can they hit Keller’s various versions of it? The Mariners will be rolling out their lefty-heaviest lineup tonight; Kelenic, Trammell, and Cal Raleigh, taking cuts from the left side, were all out for early BP.
News and notes from Scott Servais’s pregame presser:
- Servais says his expectation is this series will be relatively low-scoring, partially because of the pitching and partially because these are two teams who don’t know each other well, so execution will be key if the Mariners want to win. “You’ve gotta move runners along, you’ve gotta make the plays defensively, you don’t want to give up any free bases.” He notes the Mariners have been one of the league’s better teams in that respect as far as not walking hitters and not making errors, and if they keep executing in that way, they’ll be in good shape.
- On starting Ty France back after he got hit in the hand with the fastball: “You have to trust your players and ultimately, that’s what I do in those situations. You know the guys want to be out there but they know when they need a blow, they know when they’re ready to go, and you have to trust them that they know their body better than I do. And I do trust all of our guys.”
Tonight’s game information:
Tonight’s game begins a little later - 7:10, so it will be at least a little dark when the fireworks start, theoretically. If you’re out and about, you can listen to the game on 710 AM Seattle Sports with Rick Rizzs and Gary Hill Jr. on the call. On the television side, ROOT Sports NW will have the pretty moving pictures, with Aaron Goldsmith and Ryan Rowland-Smith doing tonight’s duties. I hope Hyphen keeps his pocket square handy to fan himself during what promises to be an exciting pitcher’s duel. Okay, but all jokes aside, it’s great to have ROOT’s best pitching analyst on tonight’s game, in particular. Also, be sure to stay tuned after the game for the fireworks!
Today in Mariners history:
1995: The anniversary of Griffey’s wrist-fracturing catch. The ecstasy, the agony. But also: remember that after Griffey was out and the team seemed destined to fall out of playoff contention entirely, they instead went on a miraculous run. Baseball! Anything can happen, and often does.
Also, today is the day of walk-offs and extra-innings wins, for some reason. We have Jason Bay’s walk-off single in the 13th inning in 2013, Kyle Seager’s two-home run game including a grand slam and a game-winning homer in extras against the Rays in 2015, and Mike Zunino’s second-decker walk-off home run against the Twins in 2018. Portents of future events?