Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger cannot reach to a home run hit by the Nationals’ Ildemaro Vargas during the ninth inning of a game Wednesday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger cannot reach to a home run hit by the Nationals’ Ildemaro Vargas during the ninth inning of a game Wednesday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Frustration grows as M’s can’t get bats going, lose to Nationals

Seattle’s lack of offense wastes a stellar effort from rookie pitcher George Kirby in a 3-1 loss to Washington.

  • By Ryan Divish The Seattle Times
  • Wednesday, August 24, 2022 5:00pm
  • SportsMariners

By Ryan Divish / The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — The hope of the ball getting over the wall was faint off Cal Raleigh’s bat. But if it hit the wall, it would at least tie the game and allow the Mariners another chance at the expected victory they were in the process of frittering away.

Instead, his deep line drive was caught by Victor Robles at the warning track. The hopeful look on Raleigh’s face as he rounded first turned into pure disappointment. He spiked his helmet in frustration – a rare display of negative emotion.

But it’s a similar sentiment felt by his teammates following Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the team with the worst record in baseball.

A split with the Washington Nationals was not an ideal way to start the homestand.

Paul Sewald gave up a two-run homer to Ildemaro Vargas in the top of the ninth and the Mariners couldn’t recover.

The lack of offense wasted an outstanding effort from rookie right-hander George Kirby.

Kirby delivered one of his best outings in his brief big league career. It started with him throwing 24 consecutive strikes to start the game. Now of course, some of those strikes were hit and put into play, including three consecutive singles in the first inning from Joey Meneses, Luke Voit and old friend Nelson Cruz, who drove in the only run that Kirby allowed in the game.

The efficiency in the strike zone continued over the next six innings as rookie right-hander held the Nationals scoreless.

His final line: seven innings pitched, one run allowed on eight hits with no walks and nine strikeouts. Of his 85 pitches, 69 were strikes.

The Mariners may preach “dominate the strike zone” to their pitchers, but Kirby owned it. Of the 28 batters he faced, he threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of them. On the seven 1-0 counts after that missed first pitch, he came back with strikes on six of them. He also threw strikes on all six 1-1 counts he had, something the Mariners place high value upon. He had just two three-ball counts on batters in his entire inning.

He got a standing ovation from the 21,035 fans enjoying the afternoon sun when he struck out Cesar Hernandez to end the seventh inning, slapping his glove in celebration.

But similar to what happened to Felix Hernandez so often in the past and what Kirby’s fellow rotation mates have felt at various points this season, the effort wasn’t rewarded with a win, a decision or actual run support.

The hit-or-miss nature of the Mariners offense was on miss mode for much of the game. Facing 38-year-old Anibal Sanchez and a handful of relievers, the Mariners were held to three hits and five total baserunners over the first seven innings while not scoring a run.

It wasn’t until the eighth inning when baseball prodigy Julio Rodriguez took Kirby off the hook for a loss brought some life back into the crowd that the Mariners offense crossed home plate.

Rodriguez jumped on first-pitch hanging curveball from reliever Carl Edwards Jr., sending it over the wall in left-center. The solo homer tied the game at 1-1. It was Rodriguez’s 20th homer of the season. He is just the sixth player in franchise history to total 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a game.

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