Cal Raleigh has a historic night and George Kirby has another quality start, as Mariners begin their three-game series in Boston with style.
Last year was a breakout season for Cal Raleigh, as he led all Major League catchers in home runs and was second with 25 caught stealing. As a result, he had the first 20-home-run, 20-caught-stealing season in club history.
This season has seen Raleigh face challenges, including a 10-game streak without an RBI heading into Monday’s game. He bounced back in style versus the Red Sox however, with a historic performance.
The 2022 Gold Glove finalist became the first catcher in Major League history, to hit home runs from both sides of the plate at Fenway Park. For some context, Fenway Park has been around for 112 years.
As if to highlight Raleigh’s power as a switch-hitting catcher, both homers entered the top five for his longest blasts in the Majors. Playing in his third season with the Mariners, he now has 36 career home runs.
Cal Raleigh leads the way
Most importantly, the 26-year-old was the catalyst for Seattle’s 10-1 win. His first home run came in the top of the fifth, to break the deadlock and give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
Jarred Kelenic added another RBI an inning later to extend the advantage to 3-0. Then Raleigh hit a second two-run blast, to bring Kelenic home and make it 5-0.
During Raleigh’s recent struggles, he had been striking out a lot. Speaking to the media after the game, he said:
“Any time you start thinking about your swing, it’s never good. I’m trying to get back on time for the fastball and try not to do too much with it. I’m trying to get back to what I was doing last year.”
While it’s just one game, three hits and four RBI definitely help in restoring Raleigh’s confidence. And in fairness, his batting average, OBP and OPS are all projected to be single-season highs.
An interesting aspect of Raleigh’s performance on Monday night, is that he grew up as a Red Sox fan. He said:
“You always think about hitting one over the monster when you’re little. It’s so big, so daunting. Obviously to do it today with family watching, it was super special.”
As an additional nice touch, Raleigh’s boyhood idol Jason Varitek was also in attendance. Varitek is revered in Boston and now coaches for the team.
Raleigh admitted he has often looked to the two-time World Series champion for inspiration. He said:
“He obviously had the ‘C’ on his chest and he was the captain. I feel like you don’t see a lot of guys like that, who get that sort of respect and kind of earn all of it. That’s just the kind of player you want to be. I don’t really care about the home runs and stats. I want to be a good teammate, a good leader and a good guy that people can lean on.”
Mariners offense steps up versus tough opponent
In the end Seattle didn’t need to lean on Raleigh too much, on a night when the offense actually showed up. The 10 runs were tied for second-most this year, one behind the 11 scored in a 11-2 win versus the Angeles.
Kelenic, Ty France, Eugenio Suarez, Teoscar Hernandez and pinch-hitter AJ Pollock all had two hits. J.P. Crawford and Julio Rodriguez also had one each, as the Mariners totaled 15 hits.
With the bats not warming up until the fifth inning, George Kirby deserves major credit for keeping Seattle in the game early. Doing it against a Boston team with the third-most runs in the Majors makes it more impressive.
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While Kirby did allow eight hits and a rare walk on the night, the Red Sox produced just 10 bases and one run. In truth he never really seemed to be in much trouble, also producing six strikeouts and going 6.2 innings.
The outing represented the 25-year-old’s seventh straight quality start, as he improved to 5-2 on the season. His ERA dropped to 2.45 and his 10.25 strikeout-to-walk rate continues to be the best among all pitchers.
Supreme self-belief for George Kirby
Kirby was asked to comment on his overall performance, on a night when everything seemed to be working . He said:
“Yeah, both heaters felt good. Every time I just want to give my team the best chance to win and go as long as I can.”
Kirby was asked if facing a good, patient, fastball-hitting team impacted his approach at all. As if to highlight his confidence, he almost matter-of-factly said:
“I’ve got two good fastballs, so why would I not throw them.”
As much as this was an excellent example of a team win, Mariners manager Scott Servais knows how important Kirby and company are. He said:
“I love our starting pitching. We’re super competitive. We’re young. We’ve got good arms. You hope the offense gets to be more consistent, then you start winning 10 out of 12, streaks when you start to click. We’ve done it before. It’s certainly within our grasp to go out and do it again.”
In this respect, the Mariners are 10-4 in their past 14 games, as they improved to 21-20 on the year. With a quarter of the season completed, they now sit two games out of a wild card spot in the AL.
On Tuesday night, Seattle will aim to take the series and go two games above .500 for the first time in 2023. The Mariners should be in good hands, with staff ace Luis Castillo taking the mound.
How much confidence do you have in Cal Raleigh as the Mariners’ number one catcher? More generally, what has been your main key for the Mariners’ recent turnaround in results? Let us know in the comments section below.
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