After a pair of ugly outings, Bruce Chen got back on track with a solid showing last week.
The Kansas City Royals are hoping for a repeat performance as they try to keep pace in the AL wild-card race Tuesday night against the visiting Seattle Mariners.
Chen (6-2, 2.79 ERA) has given Kansas City (71-66) a lift since joining the rotation July 12, going 3-2 with a 3.04 ERA in nine starts. The veteran left-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in all but two of those outings while limiting opponents to a .200 average.
After giving up a combined 13 runs over nine innings in losses to Detroit and Washington, he regrouped Thursday in a 3-1 victory at Minnesota.
“I went back and tried to be more aggressive,” said Chen, who yielded one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. “I wanted to make sure I pound the strike zone.”
Chen is 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA in nine career starts against the Mariners (62-75), most recently allowing three runs in six innings in a 4-3 road loss July 28, 2012. Dustin Ackley and Kendrys Morales are a combined 0 for 11 against Chen, and Raul Ibanez is 2 for 12.
Currently sixth in the wild-card standings, the Royals have won seven of nine after pulling out a 3-1 victory in Monday’s series opener. Reliever Will Smith threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win after replacing an inefficient Danny Duffy.
Kansas City’s bullpen, which leads the AL with a 2.51 ERA, has surrendered one earned run over 26 innings while striking out 37 in the last 10 games.
The Royals will try to keep things going against Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez (5-1, 5.18), who will be recalled for the third time after briefly getting sent down to Triple-A Tacoma. The right-hander improved to 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA in his last three starts after yielding two runs in 5 2/3 innings in Thursday’s 3-2 victory at Houston.
“Everything is about confidence,” he told MLB’s official website. “Confidence and being aggressive. That was really what I’ve done the last three starts, just go out there and not be thinking too much, just be aggressive as I can with all my pitches.”
Ramirez has gone 3-0 on the road while holding opponents to a .220 average, significantly lower than his home mark of .304. He has never faced Kansas City.
The Mariners, who went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position Monday, have hit .209 and managed 26 runs during a 3-8 stretch. Morales is mired in a 6-for-45 (.133) slump, and Nick Franklin is 2 for his last 34 (.059).
Seattle’s loss was its second in nine matchups versus Kansas City.
Ibanez, hitting .205 with one homer and four RBIs during a 31-game stretch, is uncertain to be available after sitting out the last two.
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, whose eight-game hitting streak was snapped after going 0 for 3 on Monday, is 2 for his last 20 against the Mariners.