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Sports >  Seattle Mariners

George Kirby tosses gem in debut, Ty France hits walkoff in 10th to lift Mariners over Rays

May 8, 2022 Updated Sun., May 8, 2022 at 7:28 p.m.

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

Everything about Sunday screamed for the Mariners to find success in this stretch of struggles.

The afternoon sunshine – yes, the sun was out in Seattle – provided some warmth to the chilly temperatures and biting wind. A Mother’s Day crowd for 32,501 filled T-Mobile Park, bringing the sort of good vibes that moms can provide.

And of course, the Major League Baseball debut of George Joseph Kirby, brought that excited anticipation of potential that top prospects tend to inject to teams and fan bases.

Perhaps it was an unfair ask of the 24-year-old right-hander to be the pitcher to be a losing-streak stopper in his first big league start. But with his parents, two sisters and a boisterous group of his former high-school and college baseball teammates bringing a little Westchester County energy to Seattle, Kirby was everything the Mariners could have asked for and more.

But for 81/3 innings the Mariners seemed destined to be shut out for the fifth time this season while Kirby’s brilliant outing would be wasted due to a lack of run support.

Instead, Abraham Toro tied the game with one out in the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer to right field off reliever Andrew Kittredge (Ferris).

And in the bottom of the 10th, Ty France gave the Mariners a 2-1 walk-off victory, ripping a line drive over the head of left fielder Randy Arozarena to score Jarred Kelenic with the winning run.

The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Mariners while avoiding a sweep by the Rays.

“It always starts with the guy on the hill,” Servais said. “What a shot in the arm George Kirby gave us today. Quite a Mother’s Day present for his mom and all the folks that were here rooting him on. It was exactly what we needed.”

Kirby was brilliant, tossing six shutout innings, allowing four singles with no walks and seven strikeouts. With a lively fastball that hit 98 mph, a revamped slider, an improved change-up and useful curveball, Kirby went at hitters without fear. Despite a teenager’s face featuring eyes like Bambi, the Mariners first-round pick in 2016 attacks hitters with a fearless disdain.

“My nerves were flying,” the nerves are fine. It’s hard to not recognize them. But I just stuck to what I’m used to. I’m just trying to fill up the zone. It didn’t happen the beginning but I came back and did my thing.”

Known for pinpoint control and a ridiculous strikeout to walk ratio in college (16.8), what made Kirby’s walk-free outing even more impressive was that he fell behind to multiple hitters, including three 3-0 counts. But he wouldn’t give in.

“I hate walks,” he said flatly.

He will always challenge a hitter.

“A lot of times I was using offspeed on those 3-0, 3-1 counts,” he said. “This is the big leagues. If I throw a heater there, they’re probably gonna hit it. So that’s why I’ve been just trying to work on having my usage be a toss up. I’m just challenging myself to be in the zone with those pitches and I did a pretty good job today coming back in counts with them.”

The Mariners provided him Felix Hernandez-level run support during those six innings, which is of course, no run support. Former Mariners prospect Ryan Yarbrough pitched five shutout innings and the Rays bullpen kept Seattle’s slumping hitters off balance.

After picking off Randy Arozarena for the final out of the sixth inning, Kirby walked off the field to a standing ovation and a 0-0 score.Manuel Margot, who has tormented the Mariners this season, gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning.

Margot, who had homered in the first two games of the series, jumped on a 1-1 slider from Erik Swanson, sending a solo homer over the wall in left field. It was the first run allowed by Swanson in 12 appearances this season.

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