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Nationals’ big HR in 9th spoils Mariners achievements

Kirby starts with record 24 straight strikes, Rodriguez in 20-20 club

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Seattle Mariners rightfielder Mitch Haniger cannot get to a homerun ball hit by Washington Nationals' Ildemaro Vargas during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, in Seattle.
Seattle Mariners rightfielder Mitch Haniger cannot get to a homerun ball hit by Washington Nationals' Ildemaro Vargas during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear) Photo Gallery

SEATTLE — Mariners right-hander George Kirby set a major league record by throwing 24 straight strikes to start the game and fellow Seattle rookie Julio Rodriguez reached a new level, but Ildemaro Vargas hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning that lifted the Washington Nationals to a 3-1 win Wednesday.

Kirby gave up five hits and one run before throwing his first ball to Joey Meneses in the third. Kirby topped the mark of 21 consecutive strikes to open by Joe Musgrove for Pittsburgh against St. Louis in 2018.

“I looked up at 15 or 16, and I was like ‘Oh, man,’ ” Kirby said.

Rodriguez hit his 20th home run, tying it at 1 in the eighth. The 21-year-old sensation who put on quite a show at the All-Star Home Run Derby became the fourth rookie in big league history with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season, joining Mitchell Page (1977 Athletics), Ellis Burks (1987 Red Sox) and Marty Cordova (1995 Twins).

“I’m happy about it,” Rodriguez said. “Not a lot of people do it all the time.”

Rodriguez leads all rookies in home runs and has stolen 23 bases.

The teams split its brief two-game series, with Seattle winning three of four this year after sweeping Washington in a doubleheader July 13. The Mariners hold the third and final spot in the AL wild-card race while the Nationals have the worst record in the majors.

Vargas homered with two outs off Paul Sewald (3-4), who had not given up an earned run since July 26. It was his third homer of the year, two of them for Washington after he began the year with the Chicago Cubs.

“Super excited in that moment,” Vargas said through a translator. “Anything I can do to help the team win. I’m here to do the little things and take advantage of the opportunities.”

Kyle Finnegan (5-2) allowed a couple of baserunners in the ninth before retiring Cal Raleigh on a flyout.

Nationals starter Anibal Sánchez allowed no runs and two hits in 4 1/3 innings. In his last two outings, the 38-year-old has given up one earned run and three hits in 9 1/3 innings.

“The one thing I could say about Aníbal right now is he keeps us in the ball game,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.

Kirby struck out nine in seven innings, giving up eight hits without a walk.

Nelson Cruz hit an RBI single in the first.

STREAK CONTINUES

Washington has gone 41 straight games without its starter being the winning pitcher. It’s the longest drought in major league history. Despite the unfortunate streak, Sánchez’s last three outings resulted in wins for the Nationals.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mariners: LF Sam Haggerty is dealing with an isolated deltoid strain but is progressing, manager Scott Servais said. Haggerty is expected to be ready Thursday against Cleveland. He’s available off the bench if needed.

UP NEXT

Mariners LHP Marco Gonzales (8-12, 4.08) looks to carry momentum into Thursday’s home game against Cleveland. He gave up one run in Seattle’s 10-2 win over Oakland last week.

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