Kansas City squeezed out a pair of runs against Felix Hernandez in the fifth inning on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly, all the runs needed to beat the Mariners 3-1 in the first of a four-game series Monday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. Since the second inning Saturday in Houston, the Mariners have scored one run in 25 innings.
The Mariners (62-75) stranded two runners in each of the first four frames, left 10 men on base and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, drawing the ire of manager Eric Wedge.
“We had plenty of opportunities to score again early, but just did a very poor job,” said Wedge. “We’ve got a lot of guys here who still have to learn how to play this game. I need to see improvement and consistency, not only from month-to-month, but game-to-game and at-bat to at-bat. The one recurring theme (of the season) is that we’ve not taken advantage of our opportunities offensively.”
Felix Hernandez (12-9) didn’t pitch badly but sustained his fourth consecutive loss largely because the hitters managed one fourth-inning run. The Mariners had particular difficulty with Royals reliever Will Smith, who took over for starter Danny Duffy when Duffy left after 3.2 innings and 91 pitches.
Smith struck out eight of the first 13 Mariners he faced. He had 36 strikes among his 46 pitches, including 13 first-pitch strikes.
“We had trouble picking up his slider and he handled us pretty good,” Wedge said of Smith.
The Mariners are 20-27 against left-handed starters. With 75 losses and 25 games to play, the Marinerso are on pace to lose 90 games, which would represent a significant setback to the organization.
After Abraham Almonte doubled in the fourth, Brad Miller tripled. Those marked just the second and third extra-base hits for Seattle in the last 36 innings.
The Royals tied it 1-1 in the fourth on a Mike Moustakas RBI single and took the lead 3-1 in the fifth when Hernandez wild-pitched in a run and gave up a sacrifice fly.
BATS: The Mariners had seven hits, three by Kyle Seager that lifted his average to .281. Miller had two hits from the leadoff spot, hiking his average to .271.
ARMS: Before departing with a cramp in his lower back, Hernandez worked 6.2 innings and allowed three runs on six hits. He struck out six, walked one and threw 72 of his 105 pitches for strikes. Although his ERA popped above 3.00 for the first time, Hernandez’s performance marked a significant improvement over his last outing in Texas, in which he allowed eight earned runs on 11 hits. Hernandez, a loser of five of six, hasn’t won since Aug. 11 vs. Milwaukee. His most positive note Monday: He reached the 200-strikeout mark for the fifth consecutive season, tying Randy Johnson’s franchise record.
QUOTES: “It isn’t anything special. We checked him over pretty good and he should be okay. It just appears to be a cramp” — Wedge on Hernandez throwing 6.2 innings.
NOTES: The Mariners Monday recalled catcher Mike Zunino from his rehab stint at AAA Tacoma. Zunino went 0-for-3 in his first game back . . . It’s expected the Mariners will promote LHP James Paxton, another of their top prospects. Paxon could join the club as early as Tuesday . . . The Mariners hit 87 home runs on the road this season, tops in the majors.
NEXT: The series resumes Tuesday with at 5:10 p.m., PT. RHP Taijuan Walker (1-0, 0.00), who won his MLB debut last week in Houston, goes for Seattle opposite RHP Ervin Santana (8-8, 3.19). The Mariners will return to Safeco Field Friday to begin a three-game series with Tampa Bay.