KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Royals are chasing a wild-card spot, and even though several teams are ahead of them, a series with the Seattle Mariners is providing them hope.
The punchless Mariners mustered three runs Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium, which seems like a lot considering the past few weeks. But it wasn’t enough as the Royals won, 4-3.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Salvador Perez singled to left off Yoervis Medina, and Mike Moustakas raced home to break a 3-3 tie. The Mariners had no chance against Kansas City closer Greg Holland in the ninth inning, going down in order.
It was Seattle’s third consecutive loss and ninth in its past 12 games. Those three wins came against the worst team in baseball – the Houston Astros.
Since returning from a month-long absence, manager Eric Wedge has sounded like a song on repeat when describing the team’s hitting struggles. There are so many ways he can lament his team’s inability to hit with runners
in scoring position.
“We aren’t scoring a great deal of runs,” Wedge said. “But it’s not because we don’t have opportunities. We’ve had some opportunities but we just aren’t taking advantage of them.”
So what can they do?
“The key is just keep getting guys on base,” third baseman Kyle Seager said. “If you keep getting guys on base, you are eventually going to get hits there.”
The Mariners (62-76) had plenty of guys on base, but the hits don’t follow. Seattle had 10 hits and stranded seven runners while going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. In the past four games, they are 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position.
The squandered chances started early. The Mariners had runners on first and third with no outs in the second inning and did not score, failing to hit the ball out of the infield.
In the fourth inning, they had a runner on second with one out, but two ground balls ended the inning.
Down 3-0, they finally broke through in the sixth inning. Franklin Gutierrez singled off Royals starter Bruce Chen. Seager showed why he’s the Mariners’ best hitter this season, blasting a two-run homer to right field. It was Seager’s 22nd home run of the year and his 10th off left-handed pitchers.
“You definitely want to improve with anything,” Seager said. “Hitting lefties was definitely one of the areas we talked about improving. There’s been a couple adjustments I’ve made this year.”
His homer was the Mariners’ third extra-base hit in 32 innings.
Seattle tied it an inning later. Abraham Almonte reached on a bunt base hit. Wedge brought in Kendrys Morales to pinch hit for Brendan Ryan.
The move worked as Morales singled sharply to right field. Almonte, who was running on the pitch, easily made it to third base.
“It was good to see Kendrys get a big hit tonight,” Wedge said. “We need to get him going.”
Almonte scored on Brad Miller’s soft groundout to second base.
The Mariners had a good chance to take the lead in the eighth. Raul Ibañez reached on a one-out infield single off reliever Tim Collins. Justin Smoak followed with a double down the left-field line. With runners on second and third and one out, Royals manager Ned Yost called on Luke Hochevar to pitch to Mike Zunino. Hochevar struck out Zunino swinging then got Endy Chavez to fly out to end the threat.
“He really pitched Zunino tough,” Wedge said.
It looked as though the Mariners got a break in the bottom of the eighth inning. Eric Hosmer drew a leadoff walk from reliever Charlie Furbush. Wedge replaced Furbush with right-hander Medina to face the right-handed-hitting Billy Butler. The move worked as Butler grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.
The break for the Mariners was that Hosmer was probably safe at second. He was stealing on the play and Seager still elected to throw to second for the force out. Replays showed Hosmer beat the throw.
But the good fortune wouldn’t last. Moustakas hit a lower liner to center field. Rookie Almonte tried to make a diving catch on a ball he had no chance of catching. The ball got past him a little, and Moustakas had a double instead of being held to a single.
“It’s an aggressive, young play,” Wedge said. “But he’s not going to make that catch. The best play for him is to probably pull up and catch it on a hop and keep him at first and keep him out of scoring position. He’s trying to make a play right there, just a little overly aggressive.”
That one base was huge. All-Star catcher Perez, who had two hits earlier, including a solo homer in the fourth, yanked a sinker from Medina into left field to score Moustakas.
Starter Erasmo Ramirez gave the Mariners a decent outing, pitching 6 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
Royals leadoff hitter Alex Gordon hit Ramirez’s first pitch of the game over the wall in left field to give Kansas City a 1-0 lead.
“You don’t expect that on the first pitch,” Ramirez said. “He had a good swing and hit it hard.”
Butler had an RBI single in the fifth for the Royals.
“They were a couple bad pitches,” Ramirez said. “Today I didn’t feel my best, but I did my best. And I have to do that every time I go to the mound.”Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish