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Seattle Mariners rookie George Kirby had a historic start against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old set a major league record by throwing 24 straight strikes to start the game. He topped the mark previously set by Joe Musgrove for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018. Musgrove hit the mark against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kirby said he was surprised when he looked up and saw what he was doing.
“I looked up at 15 or 16, and I was like ‘Oh, man,’” he said.
Even as the Mariners lost the game 3-1, Kirby was on a roll. According to MLB.com, Kirby only had one of his 24 strikes thrown out of the zone. He pitched to a three-ball count just once and issued zero walks.
“It just sets you up for the whole at-bat,” Kirby told reporters. “I mean, if you get strike one, the hitter has got to protect five pitches now. Just attack. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. I really try and just hammer the corners, just really quality strikes, that’s kind of what I’ve been focused on. Sometimes, you throw one down the middle.”
Kirby said he’s been trying to follow the mantra of “dominate the zone.”
“I was like, ‘I’m the guy for it. They’ve been preaching it since Day 1, and it’s something that I’ve really held true to myself. I just go out there and attack. You can’t do too bad just throwing strikes. That’s the name of the game now.”
Kirby pitched through the seventh inning for the first time since July 2 and only the second time this season. He had nine strikeouts, matching his career high and 69 of his 85 pitches were strikes.
Nationals infielder Ildemaro Vargas hit a two-run home run in the ninth that put a damper on the Mariners’ day.
Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez hit his 20th home run. He became the fourth rookie to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in the same season, joining Mitchell Page who did it for the Oakland Athletics in 1977, Ellis Burks who did it for the Boston Red Sox in 1987 and Marty Cordova who did it for the Minnesota Twins in 1995.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.