Mariners waste sterling effort from Kirby in 1-0 loss to Phillies

George Kirby couldn’t have done much more for the Mariners, as his one-run complete game is nullified by listless bats in rubber-match loss.

The Mariners’ series in Philadelphia started off with so much promise, when they opened with a strong 5-3 win on Tuesday evening. It soon turned into disappointment however, culminating in losing Thursday’s rubber match 1-0 to the Phillies.

In some respects, the last two games encapsulate how frustrating and inconsistent the Mariners have been so far in 2023. On Wednesday evening, the pitching let down an offense which produced five runs, albeit all in the second inning.

Essentially the exact opposite happened on Thursday afternoon, as George Kirby‘s tremendous game went for naught. The bats recorded no runs, as they were only able to manufacture three hits and two walks.

Kirby excels in best Major League start yet

Kirby was truly outstanding on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Projected as a future staff ace, he showed exactly why versus the reigning NL Champions.

It was the 25-year-old’s first complete game in the Majors, albeit in eight innings rather than nine. But you have little doubt he would have thrown the additional inning if need be, with similar results.

Kirby needed just 89 pitches to get through his eight innings, with 65 of them going for strikes. He forced 13 swings and misses and produced seven strikeouts.

As a result, the righty moved up to fourth overall for most strikeouts in Mariners history through his first 30 career games. He also had just his second walk of the season, which is a stunning return through five starts.

The key inning

The Philles only managed four hits versus Kirby, but two of them came in what would be the key second inning. Nick Castellanos singled and was subsequently brought home by Kody Clemens’ hit, for what would be the only run of the game.

Kirby touched on the second inning when speaking to the media after the game. He said:

“I just had to get out of that second. I feel like the second inning in my last couple of outings have kind of given me some trouble. But yes, after that I locked it in and gave the team the best chance to win.”

Overall, the 2019 first round draft pick was happy with his performance on the day. He said:

“I pitched great, threw a lot of good curveballs. I kept them off-balance all day and yes, I did my job for as long as I could.”

As you would expect, Mariners manager Scott Servais was full of praise for Kirby. He said:

“Great performance by George Kirby obviously, his first ever complete game. Unfortunately it was an eight-inning complete game, which means you’re on the bad side of things. (But) an awesome job against that team in this ballpark. He had total control of the game all day long.”

Servais was asked about Kirby’s different pitches on the day. He said:

“The breaking balls were really good. The curveball was outstanding today – maybe the crispest we’ve ever seen. He leaned on it, he went to it and commanded it really well. And of course the fastball — both the two-seamer and the four-seamer — was as good as you can do.”

As if to highlight the frustrating nature of the day, this was just the fourth complete game by a Major League pitcher this season, but the first that wasn’t also a shutout. As has often been the case throughout Mariners history, even when things seemingly go right, they still ultimately go wrong.

Murphy comes up big for Mariners

About the only other player who came out of the game with any credit, was catcher Tom Murphy. On the day, he produced two of the three hits the Mariners managed.

Murphy also called an excellent game for Kirby from behind the plate. Servais said:

“Murph did a great job, working back and forth together (with Kirby). The sequence of pitches and more importantly, the execution of the pitches. … Murph is as prepared as anybody. He’s actually hit some balls pretty well this year, but luck hasn’t been on his side. Today though he was certainly on it, probably more than anybody else on our club.”

Servais is the type of manager who will usually look for the positive and not throw anybody under the bus. However, he sounded as close to annoyed as he has done all season as he said:

“I’m disappointed we couldn’t give George a run. We have to do more offensively. Three hits ain’t going to get it done, not in this ballpark, not against anybody. A couple of lineouts didn’t go our way with runners in scoring position, but other than that we didn’t do much offensively at all.”

As much as the Mariners have often frustrated with their inconsistent offense, at least some credit should go to the Phillies pitching staff. Matt Strahm led the way, allowing just two hits in 5.1 innings.

Strahm also struck out five, while walking no batters. The bullpen then gave up just one hit and two walks, while striking out four in 3.2 combined innings.

Of note, Jarred Kelenic was moved back down to sixth in the lineup for the rubber match. He had been moved up to third on Wednesday, but subsequently went 0-for-4.

Not closing out games

A worrying trend has been Seattle’s penchant for coming up short in one-run games. Last year this was a forte for Servais and his players, as they won 34 of 56 games in this scenario – good enough to lead the Majors. (They also led the Majors in this category the season before.)

By comparison, in 2023 the Mariners are so far just 3-7 in one-run games. This includes 0-4 in extra innings games, which was another area of strength last year.

As a result of Thursday’s loss, Seattle fell to 11-14 on the season. Sooner than later, it will no longer be too early to be concerned about the Mariners’ record and overall play.

In this respect, the Mariners now head to Toronto for a three-game series against a potent Blue Jays lineup. The Canadian team will also have revenge on their minds after last year’s playoff capitulation at the hands of Seattle.

What is your main takeaway from the series in Philadelphia? More generally, what is your overall feel for the Mariners? At what point does it stop being too early in the season to be concerned about how they are playing overall? Let us know in the comments section below.

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