SEATTLE – One pitch away from escaping the decisive fifth inning, George Kirby instead will want to quickly forget this one happened.
The Mariners’ second-year starter matched the worst outing of his young career, serving up four home runs in four-plus innings in an 11-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night at T-Mobile Park.
The Pirates, a franchise that dates back to 1881, hit seven home runs in all Friday night to match their record in a single game.
It was a rare rough night from a Mariners pitching staff that ranked as the most valuable staff in the majors (based on FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement) during the season’s first 50 games.
More rare was all the loud contact that Kirby allowed.
Ex-Seattle slugger Carlos Santana was one of four Pirates to homer off Kirby, who was tagged for seven runs (all earned) on nine hits in 42/3 innings.
Kirby had pitched eight consecutive quality starts (three runs or fewer with six or more innings pitched) since April 9 with a 2.17 ERA in those eight games.
He was in trouble early Friday, allowing a leadoff home run to Andrew McCutchen on the second pitch of the game.
Santana, a key figure in the Mariners’ march to the playoffs last season, added a line-drive home run to right field in the fourth inning to tie the score at 2.
The Pirates (26-24) chased Kirby with five runs in the fifth inning.
Catcher Austin Hedges, the No. 9 hitter, led off the inning with a bloop single that dropped in front of left fielder Taylor Trammell.
McCutchen followed with a single, and Bryan Reynolds – the subject of much trade speculation with Seattle during the winter – hit an opposite-field triple, dropping it just past a diving Trammell near the left-field line.
That scored Hedges and McCutchen to give the Pirates a 4-2 lead.
Kirby looked like he might escape further damage when he got Connor Joe to ground out and Santana to pop out, keeping Reynolds at third base.
But on a 1-1 pitch to Jack Suwinski, Kirby left a curveball up just enough for Suwinski to extend his arms and hit it out to straightaway center field, a 417-foot blast.
Ke’Bryan Hayes followed with a towering home run to left field, and that was it for Kirby.
Mariners reliever Juan Then surrendered two homers in the seventh inning – a 445-foot blast to Suwinski and another to Tucupita Marcano.
Reynolds added the seventh homer of the night for the Pirates off Chris Flexen in the eighth.
Reynolds finished 3 for 4 with four RBIs and a walk.
A premier pitching matchup between two of the games best young right-handers – Kirby and the Pirates’ Mitch Keller – instead turned into a home run derby.
Julio Rodriguez, continuing his resurgence, hit an opposite-field home run on the first pitch he saw from Keller, his eighth homer of the season.
The Mariners (26-25) are in fourth place in the American League West.
Rodriguez later added a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth, cutting the Mariners’ deficit to 7-4 and bringing up Jarred Kelenic as the potential tying run.
But Keller got Kelenic to ground out to second base to end the threat.
In the seventh, J.P. Crawford ended Keller’s night with a no-doubt blast to deep right field, his third homer of the season.
But it wasn’t enough for the Mariners (26-25), who snapped a four-game winning streak.