On Seinfeld, George is not known for improving the vibes, but rather goofing things up through a combination of hubris and incompetence, hamartia with a ham sandwich. The Mariners’ George, on the other hand, is the very height of competence, with a level of swagger the other George could never approach. While the Mariners land themselves in the hospital with easily avoidable accidents—metaphorically, of course—,this Summer of George hums along dreamily, today ending with Kirby piloting the Mariners to a low-stress 5-0 win over Minnesota to salvage a series split.
To their credit, the Mariners offense didn’t make Kirby pitch from behind at any point in this game, putting pressure on Twins starter Pablo López early. J.P. Crawford took the first pitch he saw from López and redirected it into left field for a base hit, then Julio followed with a single. Eugenio Suárez worked a walk, and then Mike Ford struck out but also worked a full count himself. Teoscar Hernández delivered the RBI single, pouncing on a sweeping slider that didn’t quite sweep enough, to put the Mariners up 1-0.
But that’s all the Mariners would do. Cal Raleigh took a called third strike on a rough, three-pitch strikeout, and Ty France battled hard, with a nine-pitch at-bat, but López successfully changed his eye level and caught him looking. Still, the Mariners had forced López to throw 36 pitches in the inning, which would shorten his day to five innings, a plot thread that would come around in satisfying fashion later on in the game, right before the credits rolled.
Things were a little dicey when the Mariners failed to keep the pressure on, however, going down quickly in the second and third innings; suddenly, López’s pitch count, which had looked to be inflated early on, was a mere 62 after three innings. But once again, Teoscar stepped up to be the hero. Teoscar’s plate appearances this year have seemingly been boom-or-bust (or at the least, a cinnamon babka, a lesser babka), but this one was definitely a boom:
But really, the offense only needed to spare a square, as George Kirby was stellar today, striking out a career-high 10 batters through seven scoreless innings. His 20 whiffs are (so far) second only today to Spencer Strider’s 26, as he constantly had the Twins guessing at what he was going to throw them, loading up for the fastball only to be confronted with a sharp slider. Or curve. Or splitter.
The slider was especially wicked today; Kirby threw 22 of them and the Twins put one in play, a poorly-located one Kyle Farmer got a triple off of, which was also the only time a Twins hitter reached third base against Kirby. Other than that, the Twins couldn’t do anything with the slider, offering at it eight times and whiffing on it four, while taking it for a called strike seven times. Again and again Kirby was able to freeze the Twins hitters when they were sitting fastball, catching them guessing as he slipped off-speed stuff past them, only to get them again on a fastball, which they struggled to square up. The Twins put just one ball in play against Kirby hit over triple digits: a flyout by Joey Gallo that had a .050 xBA and was Kirby’s final out of the game.
George Kirby's 5th, 6th and 7th Ks— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 20, 2023
Thru 4. pic.twitter.com/25XvF7oHs7
Now to the credit-rolling part. To make sure Kirby got the win and because, unlike every Seinfeld character, he is a good guy, Mike Ford offered up some much-needed breathing room with a two-run homer in the eighth off Jorge López that bounced off the facade of the Hit It Here Café (RIP). Witness this Feat of Strength:
Statcast says that went 413 feet but I’d like to know how far it could have traveled if it didn’t smack into the HIH facade. Ford’s gargantuan blast scored Suárez, who was on base with a single in what was a nice little day for him as Geno continues to steadily heat up (he also had a well-struck double off López earlier that was the hardest-hit ball in the game, at 109.6 mph).
On a day where the vibes started out lousy after news broke about Jarred Kelenic’s injury, Kirby valiantly stayed the course and gave the offense—whose foibles and misadventures wouldn’t be out of place on Seinfeld—a chance to win the game and split the series. Like Seinfeld the show, the Mariners’ season so far has straddled the line between “hilariously terrible” and “just terrible”, occasionally going too dark (digging up dead parrots/dropping a series to the awful Tigers), but making up for it with some iconic moments (puffy shirts/taking a series against the Rays). More often than not, it’s been some combination of Kirby, Miller, and Gilbert pulling the Mariners out of their self-induced tailspin, and today was no different. Summer of George, ahoy.