How an adjustment helped Mariners’ George Kirby stifle Astros

May 30, 2024, 1:09 PM

Seattle Mariners starter George Kirby...

George Kirby of the Seattle Mariners reacts during the sixth inning of a 2024 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

George Kirby’s ability to locate is his greatest strength on the mound, but the Seattle Mariners starter’s propensity for always pitching aggressively in and around the strike zone has at times been his greatest flaw.

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The hard-throwing Kirby made an adjustment Wednesday night against the Houston Astros. He went to his offspeed pitches early and often, and it paid off with bounce-back performance that helped key a 2-1 victory.

After allowing five runs over six innings in each of his past two starts and four or more runs in three of his past four, Kirby held Houston’s potent offense to just one run on six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts.

“George is fantastic. I can’t say enough,” manager Scott Servais said postgame Wednesday. “I thought tonight he mixed his pitches early in the game, got right into the offspeed pitches – which you need to do against a really good team, (a) good fastball-hitting team like the Astros have – and just executed great.”

Kirby relied heavily on his slider, throwing it a game-high 30 times and collecting seven of his eight strikeouts with the pitch. A subtle adjustment on the mound helped him locate the slider in better spots.

“I’m always trying to make the perfect pitch, and I feel like that hurts me sometimes,” Kirby said. “I kind of shifted over on the rubber today to the right side, and that really made a difference I thought with the slider, starting it more on the plate and having to go off from there.”

Kirby also showcased his splitter and curveball throughout the night and threw more offspeed pitches (52%) than fastballs. After allowing runners to reach first and third with one out in the sixth inning, Kirby doubled up on the splitter and struck out Alex Bregman to keep the Astros from regaining the lead after the Mariners tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the fifth.

“Those are huge moments,” Servais said. “Those are huge moments for young players, and George has got the capability to do that. He’s just got to keep executing, and that’s exactly what he did tonight.”

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How an adjustment helped Mariners’ George Kirby stifle Astros