It’s been a challenging period lately for George Kirby, with his issues only mounting on Friday night at home to the Dodgers.
George Kirby is experiencing a lot more negativity than he’s probably used to of late. For now at least, the pitcher who arguably has the best stuff in the rotation, is no longer the golden boy.
Everyone connected with the Mariners is well aware of the fallout from Kirby’s comments after his last start against the Rays. While not believing he was deserving of how much criticism he received, it was still an invaluable lesson for him to learn from.
Regardless, as the saying goes, when it rains it pours. Suffice it to say, the 25-year-old endured a tough time on Friday night versus the Dodgers.
Not a good start
The signs were there pretty much from the word go, that Kirby was going to end up having one of those nights. The man who has the lowest walk-rate in the Majors, gave a free pass to the first batter he faced.
For the righty to give up a walk full stop is a rarity, never mind during the first at-bat of the game. Amazingly, he would subsequently walk another batter in the first, before getting out of the inning unscathed. (For further context, this the first time in his career Kirby had consecutive games of more than one walk.)
In fairness to Kirby, he shook off the early location issues and began looking more like his usual self. Aside from the two walks, he allowed no hits through his first four innings of action.
Then came the fifth inning, and it all started to go wrong for the 2023 All-Star. With one man on and two outs, he seemed set to escape any damage, but Miguel Rojas had other ideas.
The turning point
Rojas proceeded to hit a two-run blast, which turned a 1-0 Mariners lead into a 2-1 deficit. Speaking postgame about the home run, Kirby said:
“That’s the pitch I wish I had back. Great pitch, (but) better swing. Stuff happens.”
It would get worse for Kirby an inning later, when he was first charged with hitting Will Smith on the elbow. He thought Smith had swung at the pitch, but it was ruled otherwise.
Smith would subsequently come home courtesy of a triple, to make it 3-1 to the Dodgers. Another RBI single made it 4-1 to the visitors, and Kirby’s night was over after six innings.
The Mariners would get a rally going to climb to within 4-3, before the Dodgers pulled away again to win 6-3. The Mariners offense wasted plenty of opportunities on the night, going just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Mariners manager Scott Servais knows more is needed from the bats. Speaking to the media, he said:
“Every run in these games is critical, even when you are down. They got the big hits (and) we didn’t.”
George Kirby just not himself
As for Kirby, he has now allowed 19 runs in his past five outings, with 18 earned, which translates to a 6.00 ERA. As a consequence, the Mariners have also lost the previous four games he’s started.
It’s interesting that the 2019 20th overall draft pick’s slump began after arguably the best start of his time in the Majors, versus the Orioles. He went a career-high 9.0 innings and allowed just three hits, no walks or runs, albeit ultimately in a losing effort.
Kirby is trying his best to keep his usual mindset, even in the face of the current adversity. He said:
“This game’s testing me right now. I’m making good pitches, just a lot of better swings. It’s just how it happens sometimes. I’m still going to attack hitters like I always do, get ahead and try to finish them. It just hasn’t been going my way.”
Mariners fans will be hoping Kirby can turn things around soon, especially with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. It should help that his next start on Wednesday will come against the Athletics, in Oakland.
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As for the Mariners in general, they need to get something from this series with the Dodgers. They should count themselves fortunate the Astros and Rangers also lost on Friday night, although the Blue Jays edged to within half-a-game of the final AL wild card spot.
Fate is still in the Mariners’ hands, but the intensity is beginning to really crank up. As Servais said:
“Late September baseball is a pennant race. Every pitch and every out matters.”
Are you concerned about George Kirby and how he’s pitched recently? Do you see him righting the ship before the conclusion of the season? Let us know in the comment section below.