Kendrys Morales drilled his 18th home run, a two-run shot in the top ninth off Aaron Crow, to lift the Mariners a 6-4 victory over Kansas City Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. The victory snapped Seattle’s three-game losing streak, and the Morales homer put a happy face on an otherwise frustrating offensive effort by the Mariners.
The Mariners improved to 63-76 overall, 6-9 in their last 15 contests and to 4-3 on the eight-game, two-city road trip.
After Brad Miller opened the ninth by grounding out, Franklin Gutierrez walked on a full count. Crow then retired Kyle Seager on a fly ball, bringing Morales to the plate. Crow made the mistake of feeding Morales a succession of fastballs, and Morales responded by ripping a middle-of-the plate mistake 414 feet over the wall in dead center.
Seattle starter Taijuan Walker (1-0, 3.60), the celebrated rookie, made his second major league start but didn’t factor in the decision. He allowed four earned runs on four hits with two strikeouts and two walks in 5.0 innings and was long gone when Morales hit the game-winning home run.
Walker sailed through three innings unscathed, but the Royals got to him in the fourth, scoring four times, all runs earned. But he recovered his bearings in the fifth, pitching a 1-2-3 inning before yielding to Carter Capps.
The Mariners took a 4-0 lead, saw the Royals tie it 4-4 as they got to Walker, and then botched numerous chances to win before Morales decided the issue. Up until the Morales homer, the Mariners went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, hiking their lamentable total to 3-for-40 over the past five games.
But all of that went for naught when Morales delivered, making a winner out of Lucas Luetge (1-2). Danny Farquhar came on in the ninth after Morales homered and delivered his 12th save in 13 chances with a scoreless ninth.
The Mariners put two on the board in the third on a Brad Miller sacrifice fly that scored Mike Zunino, and a Gutierrez double that plated Nick Franklin, who had had doubled. They added two more in the fourth on Franklin’s RBI single and an wild pitch by that brought home Ackley, who had reached on a fielder’s choice.
The Royals retaliated with four runs off Walker in the bottom fourth, the main blows an RBI single by Billy Butler, a sacrifice fly by Salvadore Perez and a two-run double by Jarrod Dyson.
The Mariners had a pair in scoring position in the sixth when, after a Miller ground out, Zunino and Franklin reached second and third, respectively, on fielder’s choices. But Gutierrez hit a ground-ball out.
The Mariners had another scoring opportunity in the eighth. Justin Smoak doubled to lead off the inning, but Ackley, Zunino and Franklin all fanned to scotch the chance.
The Mariners got the go-ahead run aboard with one out in the ninth when Gutierrez walked. After Seager flew out, Morales banged his game winner.
ARMS: Seattle’s bullpen — Carter Capps (1.0), Luetge (2.0) and Farquhar (1.0) — collaborated on 4.0 innings of scoreless relief without allowing a hit.
BATS: The Mariners had 11 hits to Kansas City’s four, Morales, Raul Ibanez (two doubles) and Nick Franklin each producing multi-hit games. The Mariners, however, stranded eight runners in addition to going 2-for-12 with RISP.
QUOTES: “Morales hit that one really good. It was the best ball he’s hit in a while, a big hit for us. He needed that and we needed that”– Eric Wedge, Seattle manager, on Kendrys Morales’ game-winning homer.
“We’re still missing out on a lot of scoring opportunities. That’s going to be the difference for us moving on the rest of the year and into the future” — Wedge, on Seattle’s 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position
“He was up in the zone in the fourth, but I was really happy to see him come back after that. I love his repertoire of pitches, his cutter and breaking ball. I was happy to see him go out there and right himself with a clean fifth” — Wedge, on starter Taijuan Walker
NEXT: The Mariners and Royals close out their four-game series with at 11:10 a.m first pitch Thursday. LHP Joe Saunders (11-13, 4.92) will work for Seattle opposite RHP Jeremy Guthrie (13-10, 4.08). The Mariners begin a three-game series with Tampa Bay Friday night at Safeco Field.