Seattle settled for a 2-2 split in the series and dropped to 57-56 on the season. A win would have tied the Mariners with the Rays for the second wild-card spot in the American League.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Any hopes of completing a sweep of Sunday’s doubleheader and winning the four-game series with the Royals ended in the third inning of the nightcap when Erasmo Ramirez simply couldn’t get one more out.
The little right-hander, who was acquired from the Rays to provide some starting rotation relief, has been a lot like the Ramirez fans remember when he was previously with the organization — capable but also prone to mistakes that lead to home runs and big innings.
He offered a reprise of past performances in a nondescript 9-1 loss to the Royals. Seattle settled for a 2-2 split in the series and dropped to 57-56 on the season. A win would have tied the Mariners with the Rays for the second wild-card spot in the American League. Instead, they remain 1½ games behind the Royals, just where they started the day.
Mariners @ Athletics, 7:05 p.m., ROOT Sports
The Mariners hung on for an 8-7 win in the first game after taking a 7-0 lead in the second inning.
“We want to win every series, that’s the goal,” manager Scott Servais said. “But on this road trip, coming in here, Kansas City has been playing very well. It was huge to get off to the big start early in the first game today. Second game we needed to have the big inning early to keep it going. You’d like to win three out of four, but we’ll take it.”
The M’s didn’t get that big inning early in the second game; the Royals did.
After getting two quick outs to start the third inning, the top of the Royals order pounded Ramirez for four runs in four batters. Whit Merrifield hammered a solo homer to left field to tie the score at 1-1. Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer followed with singles and then Ramirez left a 91 mph fastball on the inside half of the plate to Melky Cabrera That’s probably not the place to miss to a veteran switch-hitter. But the pitch went there and went out of the park at a much greater rate of speed. The three-run homer made it 4-1.
Ramirez made it into the sixth inning, but gave up a solo homer to Hosmer and then surrendered back-to-back singles to end his outing.
“Just one inning was the big damage,” Ramirez said. “Same thing in Texas. One inning changed everything. From now on, it’s going to be about keeping the ball inside the ballpark.”
Seattle hitters couldn’t solve the riddle that was Royals starter Jake Junis, who was called up from Class AAA Omaha to make this start as their extra roster player for the doubleheader.
Junis has spent much of the season at the Class AAA level, but has made six starts and three relief appearances this season for the Royals, posting a 3-2 record and 5.50 earned-run average. But he carved up the Mariners, pitching eight innings, allowing one run on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He retired the last 19 Mariners he faced.
With Servais using an array of relievers in Game 1 and his team down 5-1 and showing no signs of coming back, Servais went to Cody Martin, called up as the extra player for the second game of the doubleheader, to pitch the seventh.
He gave up four runs in the inning with the Mariners also making a defensive gaffe — Jean Segura failing to cover second a double play — that added to the issues.
Such a lackluster showing took a little of the shine off the Mariners’ win in the opener, easily the more entertaining game.
So many times over the past three seasons, the Royals have found ways to win that type of game. It’s why they’ve played in the postseason and a World Series. And for a period much longer than three years, the Mariners have found so many different ways to give that kind of game away. It’s a reason why they haven’t been to the postseason since 2001.
After scoring seven runs in the first two innings against Royals ace Danny Duffy, the Mariners seemed headed to an easy victory. Instead, they found themselves clinging to a one-run lead in the final inning.
But with two outs and the tying run on first base, Mariners closer Edwin Diaz got Cabrera to fly out to left field for the final out.
“We got off to a great start against Duffy,” Servais said. “And we challenged a lot of guys in our bullpen today.”
The victory was dampened when set-up reliever David Phelps exited the game in the seventh inning with elbow discomfort,
Nelson Cruz, who was scratched from Friday’s game with neck and upper back spasms, hit a pair of homers, including the much-needed game decider in the seventh inning — a massive solo blast that traveled 465 feet per MLB Statcast.
“That second one was just a bomb,” Servais said. “We needed it. We needed every run today.”
Left-hander Marco Gonzales made his Mariners debut, pitching in place of the injured Felix Hernandez, and was given plenty of run support.
“It was beautiful,” said Gonzales, who allowed five runs in fourth innings.
|AL wild-card race|