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M's take just one of three from team with .324 winning percentage

After another opener-fueled defeat and a blowout loss behind the ever-mysterious Yusei Kikuchi, the Mariners remembered that the Royals had an eminently beatable pitching staff and teed off on KC's erstwhile ace, Brad Keller, in yesterday's series finale to reclaim a modicum of self-esteem and halt their losing streak at two.

Monday night Seattle manager Scott Servais again went with an "opener" ahead of "headline" pitcher Tommy Milone, and the strategy played out exactly as you might have expected. Rookie Tayler Scott started the game and lasted all of 23 of an inning, handing Milone a 2-0 hole to climb out of. Milone, as he's done since joining the Mariners, did quite well, allowing just one run in 613 innings (three hits, no walks, six Ks)—so well, in fact, that Servais might want to think abut using him as A STARTING PITCHER. Milone left after seven with a tie score, rather than a lead, and the relief corps served up home runs to Jorge Soler and Martín Maldonado to ensure defeat. Bright spots for the M's included another fine game from backup catcher Tom Murphy, who cranked a three-run homer, and some solid situational plate appearances from Dee Gordon and JP Crawford.

Tuesday saw Kansas City star Whit Merrifield hit two bombs and rack up six RBI in the Royals' 9-0 victory. Veteran hurler Homer Bailey pitched his best game of the season, lasting into the eighth inning while shutting out Seattle's lineup, while the Mariners' Kikuchi continued his Jeckyll/Hyde campaign. Kikuchi was coming off a decent start in Minneapolis, his first since defeating the Twins in Seattle a month earlier, but again didn't have his command and got hammered for six runs over five innings. Yusei has six quality starts on the year plus a couple more good ones in which his pitch count didn't get him past five innings, but he also now has six starts that resulted in four or more earned runs, including eight longballs. (His best game, of course, came in a Seattle loss, a one-run, ten-strikeout performance in Cleveland.)

In the finale, Marco Gonzales once more pitched like an ace, earning his eighth win with another quality start. Servais pulled Marco prematurely, in yet another questionable-at-best pitching move, after 623; Cam Gallagher had just doubled with two out and ice cold, 0-for-8 vs. Gonzales Billy Hamilton due up, but Servais opted to go to the ever-reliable Mariner bullpen and Cory Gearrin. Gearrin served up a hit to Hamilton which fortunately failed to score Gallagher, Hamilton stole second base to put two in scoring position, and Royal superman Whit Merrifield coming up. Somehow Gearrin retired Merrifield on a deep fly and following pitchers Anthony Bass and Roenis Elías survived their inning with no runs scoring, giving the M's the 8-2 win. Right fielder Domingo Santana had himself a day, clubbing three hits, including two homers, and five RBI, and first baseman Daniel Vogelbach hit his 18th home run as well as achieving something many Mariners have had serious problems with this year—scoring a runner from third base with fewer than two outs on a well-placed fly ball.

Overall, as one would expect with a series loss, there was more bad than good in this set with the Royals. The bullpen is still a white-knuckle experience, Scott Servais still likes the "opener" foolishness, Kikuchi is still having trouble adjusting, and Seattle batters still strike out with runners on instead of advancing them along the basepaths. But Marco is back, Vogey keeps on keeping on with a near-.400 on base mark and laser homers, JP Crawford has settled in nicely to the two-spot in the batting order, Mallex Smith is still climbing back to respectability (batting .272 with four steals in June), and Domingo Santana keeps driving in runs when he isn't striking out. Oh, and the M's committed zero errors. That's surprising.

Next up, a four-game series against a team even worse than the Royals, the bottom-of-the-heap Baltimore Orioles. Servais is going with an opener again, so don't expect much.

 

Mariners vs. Royals, by the numbers

  • Total runs scored: 29 (SEA 12, KC 17)
  • Home runs hit: 9 (SEA 4, KC 5)
  • Bases stolen/attempts: 2/3 (SEA 0, KC 2)
  • Errors committed: 1 (KC - Mondesi)
  • Quality starts: 2 (SEA 1 - Gonzales, KC 1 - Bailey)
  • Pitching changes: 16 (SEA 10, KC 6)
  • Starters ERA: 6.52 (SEA 7.11, KC 6.32)
  • Bullpen ERA: 3.00 (SEA 4.30, KC 0.96)
  • Runners left on base: 41 (SEA 23, KC 18)

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