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Seattle Mariners

George Kirby rediscovers form, barbecues Royals in Mariners win

Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Irritable and untouchable, George Kirby blissfully found his comfort zone Monday night.

The Mariners’ right-hander threw seven shutout innings, scattering three hits (all singles) with no walks and six strikeouts in a dominant 6-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals in the opener of a three-game series before a crowd of 14,984 at T-Mobile Park.

Kirby huffed and puffed around the mound throughout the evening. He barked at home-plate umpire Sean Barber at one point. He barely bothered to stifle his annoyance at a teammate’s error, biting his glove in frustration.

Enraged as ever, Furious George found his happy place.

He rediscovered his ace-like form in the process.

Over the past few weeks, Kirby had been pitching through what the team has described as a minor knee injury, and he had been limited to 88 and 70 pitches in his previous two starts. He surrendered four runs in five innings in a noncompetitive loss at Minnesota last week.

It was an uncomfortable start for Kirby on Monday night, too.

Royals star Bobby Witt Jr. hit a bloop single with one out, and after that Kirby did something he’s never done before in the majors — he hit two batters.

In 64 previous starts in his career, Kirby had never hit more than one batter in game. He had hit one batter total in his first eight starts this season.

But he hit the Royals’ Vinnie Pasquantino in the back foot with a wayward 1-2 curveball. Kirby thought he had struck out next batter, Royals veteran catcher Salvador Perez, with an 0-2 sinker that was dotted on the outside corner.

Barber, the plate umpire, thought otherwise, calling the pitch a ball.

Kirby was visibly annoyed, and he didn’t seem to forget the missed call the rest of the night.

With the bases loaded and one out, Kirby managed to escape by striking out Michael Massey with a 97-mph fastball, then got Nelson Velazquez to ground out to shortstop Dylan Moore to end the threat.

Kirby went on to retire the next nine batters in order, with a stretch in which he retired 13 of 14 Royals hitters. Only two batters reached during that stretch — one on a catcher’s interference and one on an infield single.

Luke Raley continued his hot stretch, belting a 432-foot home run off Royals starter Brady Singer in the second inning to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.

Cal Raleigh scored on the Raley homer after he led off the inning with a line-drive double to right field.

In the third, Raleigh just missed a home run to straightaway center field — a 410-foot blast that went down as the longest single in franchise history after Jorge Polanc0, the runner at first base, attempted to tag up on the play.

Julio Rodriguez scored on Raleigh’s single to make it 3-0.

Raley added an RBI single later in the inning to score Polanco and make it 4-0.

Polanco later left the game with right hamstring tightness.

Ty France hit a towering two-run blast to left field in the eighth inning to push the Mariners’ lead to 6-2.