George Kirby rebounds from early blow to lock it down, while Jarred Kelenic continues to roll in much-needed victory for the Mariners.
The Mariners entered Friday night on a three-game losing streak. And early on, things were looking decidedly shaky as they fell behind 2-0 in the top of the second.
In the end however, Seattle rebounded and put together a much-needed 5-2 win. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but at least this represented a step in the right direction.
Leading the way was George Kirby. The righty had his third straight quality outing, following a nightmare first start of the season.
Kirby’s only blip came early on, as he allowed a two-RBI double in the aforementioned top of the second. After this however, he was lights out.
Kirby in a zone
The 25-year-old retired the next 11 batters he faced, and 12 of his final 13. When it was all said and done, he allowed just three hits and the two earned runs in 6.0 innings of action.
One of the key’s to Kirby’s performance was repeatedly getting ahead in the count. Consider he threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 22 batters he faced.
In the 29th start of his young career, the 2019 first round draft pick had five strikeouts to take him to 150. If he can produce another five in his next outing, he will move up to fourth overall for most strikes in Mariners history through his first 30 career games.
Kirby’s location was on point, as evidenced by only having four three-ball counts. He would finish with no walks on the night.
For his Major League career to date, the Rye, New York native has allowed just 23 walks in 152.2 innings. And while it’s very early and likely unsustainable, his 0.4 walks per nine innings this season is down considerably from the 1.5 rate of his rookie year.
After the game, Kirby discussed what happened on the two-run double he gave up. He said:
“I never want to leave a slider up in the zone. Just working the middle of the plate down, it’s kind of been my ideal, (along with) the swing and miss slider. But yeah, that one kind of just got away from me. We had a good gameplan today, I just didn’t execute (on that pitch).”
Kirby was also asked about how he approaches a good hitting lineup such as the Cardinals. He said:
“Nothing really changes. I keep getting ahead, trying to steal first pitch strikes. I just have to be a little bit more cute with some of the fastballs, really getting in on them. Paint the corners and just really make that slider as deceptive as possible.”
Of course no matter how good Kirby was, he wouldn’t have recorded his second win of the season without any offense. And while the bats weren’t especially effective, the six hits proved to be timely.
After falling behind 2-0, it was important for the Mariners to respond sooner than later. And they did just that, courtesy once more of that man Jarred Kelenic.
There is still understandably weariness in some corners. However, the evidence is growing that Kelenic has finally figured things out with his bat and his recent success is here to stay.
Teoscar Hernandez led off the bottom of the second with a double, before being brought home by Kelenic’s RBI single. This should no longer be a surprise, for a player who leads Seattle in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.
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Hernandez — who is hitting better of late himself — tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth, with a solo home run. Then came a sixth inning which broke the game open.
Julio Rodriguez reached base first via a walk, before subsequently getting the 30th stolen base of his career. He is now the second-fasted player in MLB history to reach 30 stolen bases and 30 home runs, behind just Mike Trout. (152 games and 146 games respectively.)
Eugenio Suarez reached base with a one-out walk of his own. The Mariners then loaded the bases when a failed catch on a called third strike allowed Hernandez to run to first.
Pollock comes through
Next up was A.J. Pollock, who took advantage of the situation and hit a two-RBI double to give Seattle their first lead of the night. Kelenic then hit his second RBI of the game on a sacrifice fly, to make it 5-2 after six innings.
The Mariners acknowledge their offense hasn’t been consistent enough so far this year. Speaking about the situation, Pollock said after the game:
“You go through stretches of the year where you think you’re playing well. You’re not playing great, but you’re not playing bad and you just wait. Somethings going to happen eventually – the floodgates will open. Tonight we got some timely hits and hopefully we can keep rolling tomorrow with those hits.”
After taking the 5-2 lead, it was then up to the bullpen to come through. And they did just that, as Trevor Gott, Justin Topa and Paul Sewald each pitched a clean inning allowing no hits, walks or runs.
There is no doubt the bullpen isn’t quite up to last year’s standards, albeit in part because of injuries and overuse. In this respect, it’s worth noting they are still fifth in the Majors for batting average and ninth for ERA following Friday’s action.
Mariners more like their usual selves
Regardless, the Mariners were just happy to get the win following so many close games where they failed to come through. As manager Scott Servais said:
“I feel like we’ve played that game tonight at least seven or eight times this year, but we just haven’t got the big hit. Tonight, we got the big hit. That’s what it takes.”
It helped that overall, the Mariners looked more like the version of themselves from the two previous seasons. Servais said:
“That’s kind of how we’re built – really good pitching, outstanding defense, timely hitting. And home runs don’t hurt. That’s how we are capable of playing.”
Now sitting at 9-11, the Mariners will aim to take the series on Saturday night. They should be well-positioned to do just this, as Luis Catillo takes the mound with a 0.73 ERA which is second-best among all Major League starters.
What was your main takeaway from Friday’s contest? How many of the final two games in this series do you expect/predict the Mariners to win? Let us know in the comments section below.
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