Royals’ small ball helps salvage final game of series with 4-1 victory as Royals hand Taijuan Walker his first loss of the season.

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The bar had been set high for Taijuan Walker.

Friday night, Felix Hernandez pitched 72/3 scoreless innings in a thrilling victory over the Kansas City Royals. Wade Miley was even better Saturday against the World Series champs, tossing his first career shutout to lead the Mariners to their fifth consecutive series victory.

But the Royals rediscovered their scrappy, small-ball style Sunday against Walker, handing the young right-hander his first loss of the season as the Mariners concluded an otherwise fruitful homestand with a 4-1 defeat before 37,053 at Safeco Field.

Monday

Mariners @ Oakland Athletics, 7:05 p.m., ROOT Sports

“I kind of felt like I got a little unlucky,” said Walker, who allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings. “I really didn’t feel like I had my best stuff today, offspeed-wise. Fastball was OK. It was just one of those games where you had to grind through it.”

Walker (2-1) was pulled after 96 pitches in his shortest outing of the season. He was coming off one of the most dominating starts of his career in Tuesday’s victory over Houston, but needed 118 pitches to get through seven innings in that one. Mariners manager Scott Servais was mindful of Walker’s workload.

“Walker wasn’t probably quite as sharp as he’s been the last couple times,” Servais said. “That’s going to happen, but he kept us there, he gave us a shot.”

The Mariners (13-11) couldn’t muster much against Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy, who was effective pitching into the sixth inning. He benefited from a few borderline strikes on the outside corner from plate umpire D.J. Reyburn that Seattle batters weren’t especially fond of.

The Royals led 3-0 through five innings. Kennedy scattered four hits and struck out six before leaving with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth inning.

Royals lefty Danny Duffy relieved Kennedy and promptly struck out pinch-hitter Dae-Ho Lee and Kyle Seager on a combined seven pitches. Chris Iannetta delivered a two-out single to right field, scoring Seth Smith from third for the Mariners’ run, but Jarrod Dyson threw out Robinson Cano at the plate to end the threat.

“We had a chance there,” Servais said. “Duffy came in and certainly slammed the door.”

The Mariners had another prime chance in the seventh against Royals reliever Joakim Soria, putting runners on first and second with two outs and Cano at the plate. But Cano flew out to deep center to end the Mariners’ last best threat.

“We kept constant pressure; we just couldn’t get the big hit to break through,” Servais said.

By the numbers

21.2

Mariners pitchers had not given up a run in 212/3  innings until the Royals scored in the second inning Sunday.

11-5

Mariners record since starting the season 2-6.

5-2

Mariners record at home since starting the season 0-5.

The Royals (13-11) made Walker work to snap their five-game losing skid. Six of their seven hits were singles — including three bloop hits — with one double. Walker’s final line: five innings, seven hits, three runs, two earned runs, no walks and four strikeouts. His season ERA rose to 1.80.

“They’re the World Series champs; they’re a really good team, and they really don’t strike out,” Walker said.

Walker lamented plunking Alex Gordon with a 2-2 cutter with two outs in the second inning. That set the stage for the Royals’ first run. Salvador Perez followed with a soft single to push Gordon to third, and Omar Infante added a bloop single to right to score Gordon, ending the Royals’ 27-inning scoreless streak dating to the first inning Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.

Kansas City added another run off Walker in the third on a Lorenzo Cain RBI single.

With two outs in the fifth, a throwing error by Mariners shortstop Ketel Marte allowed Cain to score from second.

In the eighth inning, Eric Hosmer hit a towering solo homer off Mariners reliever Vidal Nuno to extend the Royals’ lead to 4-1.

The Mariners finished the homestand with a 4-2 record. They begin a seven-game trip Monday night in Oakland.