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Seattle Mariners

Gunnar Henderson, Orioles knock around George Kirby in M’s 6-3 loss

Gunnar Henderson (2) of the Baltimore Orioles hits a lead-off home run in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sunday, May 19, 2024, in Baltimore.  (Tribune News Service)
Adam Jude Seattle Times

BALTIMORE — Unprompted, Scott Servais offered a lofty compliment to the Orioles’ Gunnar Henderson during the Mariners manager’s pregame media gathering Sunday morning.

Baltimore’s 22-year-old shortstop has tormented major-league pitchers this season, and that trend continued in emphatic fashion through the weekend against Mariners, so much so that Servais couldn’t help but marvel at the opposite-field home run Henderson hit off Mariners closer Andres Muñoz on Saturday night.

“It’s very unique to see left-handed hitter hit the ball that hard the other way,” Servais said, evoking the names of Barry Bonds and Josh Hamilton by means of comparison.

Despite Henderson’s late blast, the Mariners managed to eke out a one-run victory Saturday night.

They weren’t so fortunate Sunday afternoon.

Henderson led off the bottom of the first inning with a 422-foot home run of the Mariners’ George Kirby, who has hit harder than he’s ever been in his big-league career in a 6-3 loss to the Orioles in the series finale before a crowd of 30,494 at Camden Yards.

Henderson homered in every game of the series against the Mariners (25-22), who lost two of three to the Orioles (29-15) to open a 10-game trip.

From here they head to New York to begin a four-game series against the first-place Yankees on Monday.

“We’ve got to regroup going to New York,” Servais said. “I do think we’re gaining some traction with our offense here. We need to swing the bat well over in New York.”

Henderson leads the majors with 15 homers, and his first-inning shot off Kirby came on a 1-2 splitter down and in. Henderson launched it out to center field at 106 mph, the first of the Orioles’ 10 batted balls off Kirby that had an exit velocity of 100 mph or more.

That’s the most such hard hits Kirby has surrendered.

“I just didn’t execute my pitches,” Kirby said. “Early on, the sinker, it was moving — I just wasn’t getting in the right spots, kind of leaving it down (the middle of) the plate. I really wasn’t making them uncomfortable, either. They were just (able) to get their swing off.”

Ryan O’Hearn homered in the third inning off Kirby, who allowed five runs (all earned) with no walks and three strikeouts.

The Orioles’ had nine hits in all off Kirby, and six of those came on either the first or second pitch of the at-bat. They are an aggressive lineup against the fastball, and Kirby is baseball’s most aggressive strike-throwing pitchers.

“George is a fastball pitcher, there’s no question about that,” Servais said. “But the other team knows that as well. So in early games, you really have to locate and if you miss location and they’re on your fastball timing — they got some barrels to it today. So George knows that. He’s frustrated.”

Kirby managed to settle in over the final three innings after he adjusted his grip a bit on his sinker to create better movement. But the damage was done.

“I’m glad I went six and gave the bullpen a little rest,” Kirby said. “But it just sucks.”

The Marines had little success against Orioles ace Corbin Burnes, who matched his season high with 11 strikeouts in his six innings of work.

Luke Raley, in a rare start at first base, was 3 for 3 with two doubles off Burnes.

Luis Urias had a crisp line-drive single to drive in Raley in the second inning for the Mariners’ lone run off Burnes.

The Mariners had a chance at a second run off Burnes in the third inning, after Raley’s second double into the right-field corner, but Cal Raleigh was thrown out at the plate on a relay throw home from second baseman Jorge Mateo.

“He’s obviously a really good pitcher,” Raley said. “He’s the kind of guy that, you see spin and you’re not sure which of the three spin balls it can be. He’s just really good. I mean, that’s what it comes down to. And he had his good stuff today.”

As they did in their 4-3 comeback victory Saturday night, the Mariners lineup mounted a rally against Baltimore’s bullpen again Sunday.

In the seventh, Dylan Moore drew a leadoff walk off against Jacob Webb and Urias laced a double to left field, scoring Moore from first.

Seby Zavala drew a walk (his first of the season), prompting the Orioles to call lefty Cole Irvin from the bullpen. After Josh Rojas grounded into a double play, Julio Rodriguez hit a line-drive single to left to drive in Urias from third, cutting the Mariners’ deficit to 5-3.

Cal Raleigh lofted a high fly ball to left field, but the Orioles’ Austin Hays tracked it down for the final out of the inning just in front of the warning track.

The Mariners wouldn’t get any closer.

Right fielder Colton Cowser laid out for a sprawling catch in the eighth inning to rob Raley of what would have been his fourth hit of the day.

In the bottom of the eighth, Cowser then singled off Cody Bolton and later scored on a Cedric Mullins single off Cody Bolton, giving the Orioles an insurance run and a 6-3 lead.

Craig Kimbrel closed it out for the Orioles for his ninth save of the season and the 426th of his career, sixth-most in MLB history.