Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost is clearly doing everything he can to boost his team’s slim postseason hopes.
Now his club faces a pitching matchup Thursday night that looks unlikely to help its chances.
Seattle Mariners starter Joe Saunders is 4-0 in his career against the Royals while Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie has dropped his last five decisions versus Seattle heading into the finale of this four-game set at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals (72-67) tied a franchise record for a nine-inning game when Yost used eight pitchers in Wednesday’s 6-4 defeat. Starter Ervin Santana allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings before the manager turned to his bullpen that has produced an AL-best 2.52 ERA.
Yost’s first six relievers held Seattle (63-76) scoreless before Aaron Crow allowed Kendrys Morales’ tiebreaking two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning.
“It was just one pitch but that will hurt you,” said Crow, who has surrendered four homers in his last eight appearances. “I just left it up and it hurts more so because the home run lost us the ballgame.”
Kansas City fell 5 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the AL’s second wild card with three other clubs ahead of it.
The Royals, 18-23 against left-handers, had a three-game win streak snapped and will try to defeat Saunders (11-13, 4.92 ERA) for the first time. Saunders has posted a 2.81 ERA in seven career starts against them, going 3-0 in five road outings.
Saunders, however, is allowing opponents to hit .306 – the worst mark in the majors along with a league-worst 1.58 WHIP.
He ended a four-start winless streak Saturday by limiting Houston to an unearned run over 5 1/3 innings in a 3-1 road victory. His 86 pitches marked his fourth-lowest 2013 total.
“I wasn’t happy about coming out of the game,” Saunders said. “I’m never happy about coming out of a game. I thought I had a lot left in the tank, but he’s the manager for a reason and he makes those decisions.”
Yost will hope that Guthrie (13-10, 4.08) gives him plenty of innings Thursday as the right-hander looks to reverse his poor history against the Mariners – the only AL team he has failed to defeat since 2009.
Guthrie is 0-5 with a 5.80 ERA in his last six outings against Seattle. He has allowed two runs in 12 innings over consecutive starts after a three-outing stretch in which he went 0-3 with a 6.63 ERA.
Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan is 5 for 10 against him while Justin Smoak is 4 for 12 with two homers.
Kansas City’s Billy Butler is just 3 for 12 in this series, but that’s been good enough for him to extend his streak of reaching base at home to 27 games. The slugger, 3 for 14 off Saunders, is hitting .376 in that stretch.
Kyle Seager is 6 for 12 with a homer in this series for Seattle while Raul Ibanez is 4 for 8 with two doubles.