Mariners notes: Orioles attack Seattle pitchers for series win between AL contenders

Take your pick among baseball’s best right-handed starting pitchers, but Seattle’s George Kirby and Baltimore’s Corbin Burnes are, at least, in the conversation. Kirby’s supreme command and the latter’s lethal mix of cutters and curveballs alike set Sunday’s stage at Camden Yards for the ultimate pitcher’s duel.

If only it was so simple for Seattle’s 26-year-old.

Kirby was instantly, and rather uncharacteristically, rocked. Flourishing Baltimore infielder Gunnar Henderson drilled a low-but-middle splitter several rows into the right-center seats for a leadoff home run. Third baseman Jordan Westburg lined a single to center field two pitches later.

Before Seattle’s starter could settle in, the Orioles offense jumped Kirby for five runs in Sunday’s first three frames. Baltimore designated hitter Ryan O’Hearn blasted a solo homer over the right field terrace that led off the third inning, and the longtime Orioles outfielder later singled home another run.

“I just didn’t execute my pitches,” Kirby told reporters. “Early on, the sinker was moving. I just wasn’t getting it in the right spots, leaving it down the plate.

“(I) wasn’t making them uncomfortable, either.”

Kirby settled in with a tweaked splitter grip – he went on to retire his last eight batters and last six frames – and the Mariners even rallied for two late runs on Baltimore relievers. But the Orioles held on, and closer Craig Kimbrel registered a clean ninth inning for a 6-3 win in Sunday’s rubber match between respective division contenders.

“When teams do get to George, it usually happens early in the game and early in counts,” manager Scott Servais said. “That’s what we saw today. … (We knew) they’re a fastball-hitting team, and their shortstop [Gunnar Henderson] is really going good right now. He’s a heck of a player.”

The victory was delivered primarily by Burnes, the former Milwaukee Brewer and 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner acquired by the Orioles to complete a rotation and roster it feels can win a championship. And he lived up to every expectation Sunday.

He turned in one of his season’s best early performances, matching the season-high 11 strikeouts he collected on Opening Day. Burnes’ cutter touched 97 miles per hour with vicious movement, and despite throwing only throwing 17 sliders, Seattle hitters swung at eight and missed seven of them.

He surrendered one early earned run, along with seven hits with one walk and 11 strikeouts, lowering his season ERA to 2.56.

“He’s got all of the pitches,” Servais said. “The cutter, the curveball, the changeup. He can pitch to a scouting report… that’s why he has won a Cy Young.”

Baltimore’s offense ambushed Bryce Miller in similar fashion Friday night. Henderson hit the first of three home runs this series, and the Orioles tagged Seattle’s young starter with four runs before Miller could record an out. Baltimore cruised in the opener, 9-2.

Seattle won Saturday’s middle game without a hit until the sixth inning, dominated by Baltimore starter Grayson Rodriguez, but rallied for four runs on Orioles relievers in a razor-thin 4-3 win.

The Mariners (25-22) control a one-game lead in the AL West, one less than the two-game cushion Seattle possessed entering Camden Yards. Seattle still owns the best chance to win the division (48 percent), per FanGraphs.


The return of Seattle’s shortstop and unofficial team captain will have to wait.

J.P. Crawford’s rehab appearance with Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday night, his second nursing a right oblique strain, was slated to be his last before rejoining the Mariners for their East Coast road trip. But Triple-A Salt Lake’s Adam Kolarek threw a wayward 90-mph fastball that plunked Crawford in the wrist in the fifth inning at Cheney Stadium.

In instant and obvious pain, Crawford paced the backstop and spiked his helmet in frustration. A trainer ushered him to the clubhouse, never to appear in the game again.

Instead of joining the Mariners for their road series at Baltimore, Crawford’s setback kept him at T-Mobile Park for treatment Friday. The shortstop avoided a fracture, but swelling prevented Crawford from full-effort swings.

“Hopefully he will meet up with us at some point on this road trip,” Servais told reporters in Baltimore. “I just don’t have an exact date yet.”

The current timeline projects Crawford to return amid Seattle’s four-game series at Yankee Stadium this week. Servais remained without an exact date Sunday.

As for Seattle’s second baseman, Jorge Polanco missed his fifth consecutive game Sunday with a sore hamstring. There’s still hope Polanco can avoid a stint on the injured list, but the Mariners placed Jonatan Clase on the taxi squad and provided a locker in Baltimore for the 21-year-old prospect who debuted for Seattle last month, a clear insurance policy.

The team will decide whether Polanco plays or hits the injured list by Monday’s opener with the Yankees, Servais said.

“(Jorge) feels good swinging the bat,” Servais said. “I don’t think he’s quite 100 percent on the field, moving around, doing anything running-wise. But he’s feeling better.”


— A glitch in the matrix? A miracle before our eyes? You decide. Josh George, a fortunate fan seated along the left field side wall at T-Mobile Park, caught consecutive foul balls on back-to-back pitches off the bat of 3B Josh Rojas in the first inning of Monday’s game with Kansas City.

The odds are incalculable. The first plopped straight into George’s lap. The second, a slicing drive, found his seat again.

George stood and raised both arms to the sky, a baseball in each hand. The stadium clamored.

“He’s got both!” Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith exclaimed. “He’s got ‘em both!”

That was only the beginning of George’s roller-coaster, 24-hour stretch. He attended Tuesday’s batting practice for a meet-and-greet and photo with Rojas. Of course, they coincidentally share a first name, too. George pulled both baseballs from his pockets for a ready Rojas, pen in hand.

George threw out Tuesday’s ceremonial first pitches – yes, pitches. And Rojas caught them both behind home plate, a fitting conclusion to what feels like a once-in-a-lifetime improbability.

– OF/1B Luke Raley is heating up. The 29-year-old entered Sunday with a .400/.400/.700 slash line and two home runs and five RBI over his last five games, then added three hits in the rubber match at Baltimore.

– The Mariners lead the American League with 27 quality starts this season. Seattle starters Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, and Bryce Miller comprise the only rotational quartet in MLB with five-plus quality starts.


Seattle’s seven-game gauntlet against AL East contenders continues at Yankee Stadium for a four-game series with New York (33-15).

Logan Gilbert duels Yankees right-hander Marcus Stroman in Monday’s series opener at 4:05 p.m.