George Kirby and Julio Rodriguez lead the way and Mariners now have a chance to complete four-game series sweep on Sunday in Anaheim.
Don’t look now, but the Mariners are a season-high seven games above .500, at 59-52. Since July 1 they are tied with the Orioles, with a Major League-best 21 wins.
Whether the Mariners will make the playoffs for a second straight season is unclear, but at least it’s more fun for the fans now. The team sits 2.5 games back of the final AL wild card spot and 3.5 behind the Astros for the second wild card position.
Helping the Mariners get to this point, was a tight 3-2 victory versus the Angels on Saturday evening. The win secured the series with a game to spare, with the chance to complete the sweep on Sunday afternoon.
Outstanding start from Kirby
A superlative performance from George Kirby set the Mariners on their way to victory. He allowed just four hits and no walks, on a night when the Mariners needed him to be at his best.
The only negative was allowing a solo blast in the bottom of the third, which pulled the Angels to within 2-1. Kirby induced 15 swings-and-misses, on his way to five strikeouts in 7.0 innings.
The 2023 All-Star ending his outing in style, needing just five pitches to get the required three outs in his final inning. Overall, this was his ninth quality start of the year without a walk, which is best in the Majors.
Kirby was asked about this accomplishment postgame by the media. He said:
“I hate walking people, and I love reading that stat. … That’s what I really take to heart. It’s pretty cool. I didn’t know that.”
Kirby wasn’t done, adding some more insight into his mentality regarding walks. He said:
“I always say, if you walk someone, something bad always happens. That’s why I stress it so much.”
Undoubtedly other pitchers will feel the same, but the 25-year-old really does back it up on the mound. His 8.86 strikeouts-to-walk ratio in best in the Majors among all qualifiers. (For some context, the Rays’ Zach Eflin is second with a 7.12 ratio.)
Mariners manager Scott Servais appreciated what his young pitcher did against the Angels. He said:
“George was in total control. Very efficient with his pitches. Getting seven full innings out of him, it’s exactly what we’re looking for.”
J-Rod leads the way on offense
Of course, no matter how well Kirby pitched, he needed some run support. And the Mariners provided just enough on the night.
Leading the way on offense was Julio Rodriguez, who had a game-high three hits. This included a two-run RBI double in the top of the third, for an early 2-0 advantage.
The impetus for Rodriguez’s inspired play came after an apparent steal of second base was overruled in the opening inning. His frustration was evident as he walked back to the dugout, with him seeming to get into an argument with someone in the stands.
Servais had no issue with the incident. He said:
“There was a lot of things going on, and people have the tendency to yell things and whatnot. Julio is very passionate, very fiery, and I love it. He let his bat do the talking after that.”
A revitalized Ty France tagged on a RBI single in the top of the eight, to make it 3-1. This proved vital, as the Angels pulled to within 3-2 in the final inning and loaded the bases with two outs.
Fortunately for the Mariners, Andres Munoz regained his composure to secure the final out and the win. It also represented his fifth save of the season.
Mariners appreciate J.P.
The key defensive play of the night had come an inning earlier for the Mariners, courtesy of J.P. Crawford. His phenomenal diving catch and flip started a double-play, which ended a potential scoring threat from the Angels.
Servais has seen it all before, but is no less impressed. He said:
“He’s having an unbelievable year. I think people look around the game and maybe don’t appreciate what he brings every day. I know we do. The entire Mariners organization does. He’s our guy.”
On top of this, Crawford had two walks on the night. This helped him equal a club record of 10 consecutive games with a walk, tying a certain Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay Buhner.
The 2013 16th round draft pick has had his critics at times. However, he leads the Mariners in batting average, walks, OBP and WAR.
Servais and the other players appreciate Crawford, which is what mattes most at the end of the day. He said:
“He’s playing at the top of his game. The unbelievable play up the middle, the quality of the at-bats, what he brings to the clubhouse every day. He checks all the boxes, and I love having him as our shortstop.”
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Overall, Kirby is impressed with how well the Mariners are performing as a collective of late. He said;
“We’re putting it all together. Pitching well from starters. Our bullpen is doing really well. We’re seeing good pitches and we’re not missing the pitches that we sometimes usually do. I think everyone is just enjoying themselves a lot more, and it’s just really fun to watch these last 12 games or whatever.”
Mariners fans will be hoping the winning can continue, to keep alive hopes of qualifying for the playoffs. Bryce Miller will take the mound on Sunday afternoon, for his first start versus the Angels.
Where is your confidence level at with the Mariners? Do you predict they will again qualify for the playoffs, or fall short? Let us know in the comments section below.