I hate it when an opposing pitcher makes his major league debut against the Rays.
Maybe he’s very nervous and gets knocked around early and then even if I’m happy for a Rays win I feel badly for the poor kid.
Or maybe he’s immediately locked in and stymies the Rays lineup, which doesn’t quite know what to expect, and I just spend several innings thinking “please get a hit.” That today is Mothers Day with all the pink accessories also had me flashing back to another day, in another decade, where I watched the pink-clad Rays go 27 up, 27 down.
Today was the debut of right-handed prospect George Kirby, and he was very good. In his first inning he struck out three, with 6 whiffs, largely using a 97 mph fastball with good movement. Fortunately Wander Franco did get that all important first hit in the first inning so the perfect game was off the board.
I don’t usually take time in my writing to praise the opposition, but hat tip to Kirby for an outstanding debut — scattering four singles, striking out seven and walking none. Although the Rays did make decent contact in those instances when they weren’t striking out, Kirby was very much in control.
Also I can’t resist a “player’s family at successful debut” video:
This reaction from @gkirb98’s family is EVERYTHING pic.twitter.com/qrZWzV62DO— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 8, 2022
But do you know who else was pretty darned good today? Ryan Yarbrough. Yarbs is never going to get the whiffs, but when he’s on he will paint corners and get weak contact, which he did today. The only threat against him came in the second: he gave up two singles and then watched as Dylan Moore hit a hard fly ball to VERY deep center-left field, with Brett Phillips making either the best or worst catch ever:
When you think "sliding catch," this isn't exactly what comes to mind pic.twitter.com/AmL5tQ4aY1— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 8, 2022
Yarbrough departed with a very respectable five innings pitched, with four hits and one walk. The Rays bullpen — first Garza, Jr, then Adam — preserved the shutout.
It looked like the Rays might have the game in hand in the eighth inning. thanks to the Man-uel of this road trip, Mr. Margot:
The Mariners have probably seen enough of Manuel Margot pic.twitter.com/tADmY7uwRD— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 8, 2022
But the Mariners did not let the Rays rest on a one-run lead. They threatened in the eighth, largely with soft contact. The leadoff hitter reached when Phillips, Margot and Lowe converged to try to get a pop-up and it fell between them (wonder whether this is a moment where you need a Kiermaier to take charge). A screeching line drive from Ty France — 107.5 mph! was nabbed by Wander, but a grounder got just by Brandon Lowe and there were runners on the corners. The unflappable Andrew Kittredge was able, however, to end the inning with a soft grounder.
But they went back to hard contact in the ninth, with Toro hitting a solo homerun to take the game into extra innings. And while the Rays failed to bring that “ghost runner” home in the 10th, Ty France was able to hit one deep into left field to score the winning run.
The loss is tough but if anyone had told me last week that the Rays would take three of four games in Seattle I probably would have thought that was a pretty good outcome.
A few random thoughts:
Randy on the basepaths. Sigh.
Brett Phillips with the bat (at least at the moment). Sigh.
Philosophical question of the day: what constitutes a glove? When Kelenic tried to steal second he was tagged out by Brandon Lowe. The Mariners challenged and replay showed that the strings hanging from glove had touched the sliding Kelenic. The call was upheld, leading Dewayne Staats to declare the umpires “strict constructionists.”