Wyman & Bob: How confident are you in Mariners’ George Kirby for Game 3?
The Mariners find themselves in a tough spot entering Game 3 of the ALDS as the Houston Astros have jumped out to a 2-0 series lead.
The series now heads to Seattle with the M’s hosting their first playoff game in 21 years Saturday afternoon, and someone who was just 3 years old at the time will get the start on the mound.
That would be George Kirby, the hard-throwing rookie right-hander who turned in a great first season at the MLB level, posting a 3.39 ERA with 133 strikeouts to just 22 walks across 25 starts and 130 innings.
The last time we saw Kirby, he recorded the final three outs in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card round in Toronto, securing a 10-9 Mariners win.
Now, he’ll be starting against an Astros team that’s one win away from a sixth consecutive ALCS appearance.
Obviously, this is the biggest start of Kirby’s life. So what’s the confidence level in the 24 year old? Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Wyman and Bob tackled that conversation on Friday.
Dave Wyman said he was a little concerned that Kirby’s walk numbers increased over his last three starts. He’d walked just 15 in his first 22 starts compared to seven over his last three starts of the year. But earning the save in Toronto really impressed Wyman.
“I have faith in him. I trust in him,” Wyman said, calling the rookie “icy” for his performance against the Blue Jays.
“(The big moment) didn’t affect him one bit,” he said.
The Astros, though, have a dangerous and experienced lineup, and with Kirby being a rookie, that’s worth mentioning, Wyman said.
“If you’re that lineup from Houston, you’re probably looking at it going, ‘OK, this is a good opportunity for us to clinch this thing right here and now,'” he said.
All that being said, Wyman is excited about Kirby and has confidence in him.
“I feel like he’s going to be able to get it done.”
Wyman’s co-host, Bob Stelton, was worried Kirby lost some steam at the end of the regular season. But like with Wyman, he came away very impressed with how Kirby handled himself in a tough atmosphere and spot in Toronto last weekend.
“He kept his composure, he kept his cool (with) the tying run on first base and the crowd going nuts … and to see him just look exactly as he had all season and he had his velocity – he was hitting 99, 98 (mph),” he said. “I was a little bit along the lines of your thinking prior to that. Now, that was just one inning. How does he do over multiple innings? Is fatigue going to set in? We’ll see. But that gave me some confidence, watching him handle that situation with what was on the line at the time. And granted, if they lost the game, there was still another game and it doesn’t end the series. But still, you’ve got a win in your hand right there. It’s up to him to close it out, and he did it.”
Stelton thinks, though, that Kirby will be watched very closely by the Mariners’ coaching staff and figures to have a short leash should he get into trouble or show a noticeable difference in command and/or velocity.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s Kirby or if it’s Logan Gilbert or if it’s (Luis) Castillo. It doesn’t matter. You can’t allow whoever is starting for you to dig too deep of a hole,” Stelton said. “You have to win this game. There’s no two ways about it … You’ve got to have a very short leash with whoever’s out there if you get the sense he’s not fine or he’s not gonna be able to pull this one back. But when it comes to him, his confidence is calm. His cool is just so impressive.”
Stelton keeps coming back to the one-inning outing in Toronto when thinking of his confidence level in Kirby.
“It’s his first year. And so to be in that environment with what was on the line and to see him face that adversity and come through, I think is huge,” he said. ” … I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. But at the same time, the leash has to be short. You just can’t afford to dig a hole.”
You can hear the full conversation in the second segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.