One pitch away from avoiding a decisive fifth inning, George Kirby would rather quickly forget it ever happened.
The Mariners’ precocious second-year starter matched the worst outing of his young career, allowing four home runs over four 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 a single game to equal their all-time record.
Even after a good start, Kirby said he didn’t bother to go back and review his performance.
“I certainly won’t watch it, that’s for sure,” he said.
It was a rare tough night from the Mariners’ pitching staff, which was ranked as the most valuable staff in the majors through the first 50 games of the season (based on FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement).
All the vigorous contact allowed by Kirby was more rare.
Ex-Seattle slugger Carlos Santana was one of four Pirates homers to homer Kirby, who was tagged for seven runs (all earned) on nine hits in 4.2 innings.
Kirby had eight consecutive good starts (six or more innings with three runs or fewer pitched) with a 2.17 ERA in those eight games through April 9.
He was in trouble early Friday, allowing a leadoff home run to Andrew McCutchen on the second pitch of the game.
Santana, who had been a key figure in the Mariners’ playoff run the previous season, connected a line-drive home run to right field in the fourth inning to tie the score at 2–2.
The Pirates (26–24) scored five runs in the fifth inning off Kirby.
Catcher Austin Hedges, the No. 9 hitter, led off the inning with a blowout single that slid past left fielder Taylor Trammell.
McCutchen followed with a single, and Brian Reynolds – the subject of much trade speculation with Seattle during the winter – hit an opposite-field triple, hitting it just past a diving Trammell near the left field line.
This gave the Pirates a 4–2 lead with scores by Hedges and McCutchen.
Kirby looked like he could avoid further damage when he put Reynolds on third base to ground out to Connor Joe and pop out Santana.
But on a 1–1 pitch to Jack Suwinski, Kirby dropped a curveball high enough for Suwinski to extend his arms and blast a 417-footer straight to center field.
K’Brian Hayes followed with a huge home run into left field, and that was it for Kirby.
“He’s been great. He just hasn’t exploded like this,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “He’s the epitome of precise command. He’s always on the edges, finding the ball where he wants it and executing in the big spots. He wasn’t able to do that tonight. You have to give credit to his boys. He swings the ball well.”
Mariners reliever Juan then surrendered two homers in the seventh inning – a 445-foot blast to Suwinski, and another to Tcupita Marcano.
Reynolds added a seventh homer of the night for the Pirates off Chris Flexen in the eighth.
Reynolds finished 3 for 4 with four RBI and a walk.
The seven home runs allowed by a visiting team at T-Mobile Park is tied for the most.
“Very uncharacteristic for our pitching,” Servais said. “They came out swinging it. They were on George. He got some balls up the middle of the plate, and they definitely have some power in the middle of their lineup and they took advantage of that tonight. … With the warm weather, The ball is moving better, but we’ve left too many balls up to a team that hits high fastballs.
A prime pitching matchup between two of the game’s best young right-handers – Kirby and the Pirates’ Mitch Keller – instead turned into a home run derby.
Julio Rodríguez continued his mini resurgence, hitting an opposite field home run on the first pitch he saw from Keller, his eighth homer of the season.
“You’re starting to see Julio — his timing is so much better,” Servais said. “Lots of good signs from him.”
Rodriguez later added a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth, cutting the Mariners’ deficit to 7–4 and bringing in Jared Kelenik to score the potential tying run.
But Keller grounded out to second base to end the threat.
In the seventh, JP 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 their four-game winning streak.
The Mariners are now 19–9 in games in which they score four or more runs.