Why Mariners could get creative with their pitchers in ALDS vs Astros
The Mariners showed creativity with their pitching staff in their clinching American League Wild Card win over the Blue Jays, and there might be more where that came from this week in the AL Division Series.
After using most of their bullpen arms in the midst of their comeback from a 7-1 deficit Saturday in Toronto, manager Scott Servais called upon rookie George Kirby to make his first relief appearance in the big leagues. Oh, and no big deal but it was a save situation in Seattle’s 10-9 victory.
Does that mean Kirby will remain in the bullpen for the upcoming series against the AL West champion Houston Astros? Not exactly. In fact, both Mariners insider Shannon Drayer and Seattle Sports host Mike Salk are wondering if he may switch spots with Saturday’s starter, Robbie Ray.
“Robbie, of all of the guys in this starting rotation, I think his stuff might translate the best to the bullpen,” Salk said during Monday’s edition of Brock and Salk.
The left-handed Ray had a tough time against a righty-heavy Blue Jays lineup on Saturday, leaving after three-plus innings of four-run ball. Houston’s lineup is similarly loaded with right-handed bats, with only three players on the Astros’ active roster – All-Stars Yordan Álvarez and Kyle Tucker plus backup first baseman J.J. Maltijevic – swinging from the left side. That, plus Ray’s 10.97 ERA in three starts against the Astros in 2022, points to him making more sense as a reliever than starter in the ALDS.
“The idea of going to Robbie for some key at-bats against Álvarez, etc., actually sounds kinda helpful,” Salk said.
Drayer thinks that after throwing just an inning Saturday, Kirby lines up well to start Game 3 of the ALDS this Saturday in Seattle.
“We talked to (Mariners president of baseball operations) Jerry Dipoto in the clubhouse during the celebration (last Saturday) and he brought up that possibility, so I think that is very much on the table for them,” she said.
And when it comes to Ray in a relief role, that could end up being a key weapon for a bullpen that only has one southpaw (Matthew Boyd) in it.
“That’s what Robbie is, he’s a max-effort pitcher. He understands that and that’s something I think he really kind of feeds off, too,” Drayer said. “So if you let him kinda do what George Kirby did, coming out of the bullpen and just let it go, I think that that is something that he can understand and that he can challenge. I think we all know that his biggest struggles this year have been against that Houston Astros team. I don’t think you can pitch him (as a starter) in Houston. You could take a shot at doing it in Seattle, but I think that he also gives you that opportunity out of the bullpen, just give everything you’ve got out there, and that is something that suits him. I think that is something that absolutely could work for them.”
If the series goes to a deciding fifth game, which would be Monday in Houston (and would be the third game in as many days in the series), having Ray as a somewhat fresh option to start could be necessary, too.
“The rotation sets up very nicely one through three, and then because they have the three days in a row at the end of the week, that’s where it gets a little bit dicey in that you can’t bring your No. 1 guy back on regular rest,” Drayer said. “I think that Game 5 would be the most interesting game… and the most challenging for these guys. I would say just bullpen it – you know, just bullpen them to death if you’ve got a good bullpen to do that, but it’s a third day in a row against the Houston Astros so you probably won’t. That might be the absolute best spot for him right there.”
You can listen to the full conversation in the podcast in the player below.
Listen to Mariners Radio Network’s ALDS broadcasts on Seattle Sports
The only way to hear Mariners broadcasters Rick Rizzs, Mike Blowers, Aaron Goldsmith, Dave Sims and Gary Hill call the playoffs is on the Mariners Radio Network, which Seattle Sports 710 AM is the flagship station of. In addition to tuning in 710 AM in the Seattle area, anyone in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia and Alaska) can stream the games at SeattleSports.com or on the Seattle Sports app. Coverage of Game 1 will begin with the pregame show hosted by Shannon Drayer at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Game 2 coverage on Thursday will also start at 11:30 a.m.
You can also listen at 7 p.m. Monday night on Seattle Sports to a replay of the Mariners’ Game 2 Wild Card comeback win over the Blue Jays from Saturday.