The Rangers have no answer for George Kirby, as the Mariners improve to 5-0 in career games he has started versus their divisional rival.
There are three certainties in life when it comes to the Mariners, including having an inconsistent offense and playing far too many tight games. The third is that if George Kirby starts versus the Rangers, the ballclub will win.
Kirby continued his hold over the Rangers on Tuesday night, with a dominant performance in a 5-0 win. The victory evened the series with Texas, while returning Seattle back to .500 with a 18-18 record.
George Kirby excels
The Rangers may have scored the second-most runs in the Majors but they had no answer for Kirby, as he pitched seven innings of shutout ball. He only gave up six hits on the day, not allowing any lead-off man to reach base until his final inning.
The 25-year-old threw a career-high 101 pitches and equaled another career-high of nine strikeouts. And as seems/is almost the norm, he did not surrender any walks.
In this respect, Kirby leads all Major League pitchers with a 11.67 strikeouts-to-walk rate as of Wednesday morning. Overall, he has now thrown six consecutive quality starts since a tough first outing to his season.
The only time the Rangers came close to a genuine scoring opportunity versus the righty, was in the top of the third. They positioned runners on first and third base with two outs, before Nathaniel Lowe grounded out to end the threat.
After the game, Kirby was asked about his ability to continually get ahead in the count. He said:
“That’s huge. I feel like something bad always happens with a lead-off walker, lead-off hitter. I was able to just bear down, keep control of the zone and keep them off-balance. But yes, first-pitch strikes are huge, which is what we preach here and I’m going to keep doing my best to throw in the zone.”
With the season now in full swing (no pun intended), Kirby was asked how he feels about his form at this point. He said:
“I think I’m in a good spot. I’m throwing strikes, my off-speed has been a lot better than last year so far, so keep that up. But yeah, so far it’s been really fun. I have no complaints.”
Mariners manager Scott Servais equally has no complaints when it comes to how Kirby is pitching right now. He said:
“He’s on the attack and he’s smothering them, I guess is the way I like to term it. He’s just right on top of them all the time. He does not back off the gas, and it’s just fun to watch. I know our guys love playing behind him.”
Mariners offense does its part
Of course, no matter how well the starting pitcher throws, it doesn’t matter if you struggle to manufacture runs of your own. And the Mariners have been guilty of this more than most of late, including just a night earlier versus Texas.
For one game at least though, Seattle’s bats did a good job, including one instance where a bat literally helped out on its own. The bizarre moment came in the bottom of the third, after a Ty France hit had brought Tom Murphy home to make it 1-0.
On Josh Smith’s throw towards home plate from left field, the ball hit France’s bat, which hadn’t been cleared from the field of play. As a result, Sam Haggerty was able to also score on what probably should have been an out, to make it 2-0 to the Mariners.
Regardless, France has returned to the form expected of arguably the best natural hitter on the ballclub. He is now on a seven-game hitting streak, following on from a run of just one hit in 10 games.
A welcome home run from Tom Murphy
Despite the two runs, the Mariners kept their fans nervous until the bottom of the seventh. However, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief when Murphy hit a two-run homer, to make it 4-0.
In this respect, Murphy was likely relieved himself, given the home run was his first since April 9 last year. He was limited to 14 games during 2022 due to injury.
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In some respects, maybe Murphy’s hit should have been expected, given that it came versus Andrew Heaney. He is now 5-for-12 in his career versus the pitcher, including three home runs.
Murphy was asked why he thinks he has so much success against Heaney. With a laugh, he said:
“I don’t want to give away any of my secrets. Everyone has those guys they seem to see well and maybe he’s my guy.”
More generally, Murphy discussed the motivation behind the hard work and preparation he puts in on a consistent basis. He said:
“Work is the only thing I know. That’s what got me here, that’s what’s kept me here and it will keep me here going forward. So it’s really easy for me to show up every day knowing that.”
The Mariners could have turned the game into a rout in the bottom of the eighth, after loading the bases. In the end however, they had to settle for just the one run on a sacrifice fly from AJ Pollock, to make it 5-0.
The relievers also deserve some credit, with Justin Topa and Juan Then pitching an inning each to preserve the shutout. As of Wednesday morning the Mariners’ bullpen has the second-best ERA in the Majors, at 2.85.
In this respect, Servais left no doubt why Seattle continues to be competitive despite the inconsistent results. He said:
“Our pitching is unbelievable. We are rolling right now, night after night. I sit up here and just rave about what I’m watching and I hope everyone realizes how talented these guys really are. They are performing, executing; they continue to focus on the right things and get better as we watch them.”
Servais knows they still need more from the offense generally speaking, but he gave them their due credit on the night. He said:
“We finally got some big hits. We got a big two-out hit from Ty, Murph had a nice night. And a sac fly with a man on third. It’s the little things. They don’t seem that big, but we need to get better in those areas and we did tonight, and that’s why we won the ball game.”
The Mariners will now look to win the rubber match on Wednesday afternoon, with Luis Castillo taking the mound. J.P. Crawford is expected to return to the lineup, after missing two games with a left knee contusion.
The Mariners are spoilt for choice in their rotation. Where would you rank George Kirby, if you were to pick who was to start in a one-off playoff game? Let us know in the comments section below.