Kirby 'won't be watching this one' after allowing 4 homers

May 27th, 2023

SEATTLE -- If one had told Scott Servais that his club would be the first team since 2021 to score six earned runs off Pirates ace Mitch Keller, the Mariners’ manager probably would’ve liked his chances. 

The flaw in the equation, however, was that Servais’ own ace was also susceptible on Friday, and ’s four homers and seven earned runs proved too much to overcome in an 11-6 loss at T-Mobile Park to up-and-coming Pittsburgh, one of MLB’s early surprise teams in 2023.

"I don't watch my outings as it is, and I definitely won't be watching this one -- that's for [dang] sure,” a frustrated Kirby said postgame. 

The Pirates added three more homers against Seattle’s bullpen, tying the Bucs'  franchise record, and the Mariners also slugged a pair, soaring through a marine layer that as recently as Wednesday had halted fly balls at the warning track. In that context, despite defeat, the warmer weather could be an encouraging sign for a Mariners offense that’s at its best when consistently hitting homers but hasn’t done so often with regularity in 2023.

punched a 102.7 mph, back-spinning solo shot to the opposite field in the first inning, his first homer in two weeks, and the type of blast emblematic of when he’s at his best. He also ripped a two-run single in the fifth, marking his fourth multi-hit effort in his past five games. It took him 27 games to rack up that many before this stretch. 

added a 393-foot pull-side blast in the seventh, though the game was mostly out of reach by that point. The Mariners had scored six runs or more 12 times before Friday and were victorious in 10 of those, while their pitching staff had only twice surrendered 11 runs, leading to their most lopsided losses of the year, at Wrigley Field on April 11 and Fenway Park on May 17.

If it felt like a weird game for those watching, it was -- an uncharacteristic clunker for Seattle’s elite arms yet perhaps an encouraging sign for what’s been an inconsistent offense. Servais even suggested pregame that what, on paper, looked like one of MLB’s best pitching matchups on Friday, would likely be low scoring. 

“We don't see this team a lot,” Servais said. “We saw them tonight. We need to make an adjustment here for the rest of the series, which we're very capable of doing.”

As for Kirby, the look from the second-year righty as he walked off the mound was one of perplexion. He’d just handed the ball to Servais after his 92nd pitch, took off his glove and clapped it with his pitching hand, pacing to the dugout with the left side of his lips twisted, suggesting that even he wasn’t sure what just happened. 

“He’s a really good pitcher,” said Pirates star Bryan Reynolds, who had a two-run triple off Kirby. “I’m proud of the way we came in with a good approach and we stuck with it. We were prepared. [Four] homers off anybody is impressive, but the fact we could do that off a pitcher like him is really good.”

Kirby entered the day averaging 14.2 pitches per inning, third-best among 72 qualified starters, but he labored for a 19.7-per average on Friday, which in the season aggregate would rank second worst. The nine hits against him tied a season high dating back to his 2023 debut against the Angels, objectively his worst outing before Friday.

Kirby also entered the night with just three home runs allowed and 0.46 per nine innings, fifth-best in MLB, and his 4.8% homer-to-flyball rate was fourth-best. He’d only once given up four in one career outing, including the Minors, last June 27 against Baltimore, after which he only gave up one the rest of the entire season, a span of 17 outings, including the postseason. 

“I think we know how George is going to respond,” Servais said. “We all know George well enough, super competitive. George always has a lot of fire in his belly, and when it doesn't go his way, he will make a little adjustment and I'm sure he's already looking forward to his next start.”