SEATTLE (AP)— Little did the Kansas City Royals know that allowing Billy Butler to swing at a 3-0 pitch in the fourth inning may have helped avert history.
Kansas City mustered just one hit off Seattle left-hander Jason Vargas over eight innings and fell 4-1 to the Mariners on Thursday night after compiling just two hits.
Butler’s 200th career double flew into the gap in left-center field to score Lorenzo Cain, who had walked in the fourth inning. That was the extent Royals’ only offense.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “Going into the ninth inning, I was glad I gave Billy the 3-0 green light, that was our only hit.”
Butler doubled again in the ninth off closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who finished for his 12th save. Butler’s 201 career doubles make him the eighth player in club history to hit 200 or more.
The two hits were a season-low for Kansas City. Vargas (11-7) threw eight innings, allowed a hit, walked three and struck out five. The 11th win set a career-high.
“He threw a lot of quality pitches,” Butler said of Vargas. “For a guy that has high 80s stuff, that’s a pretty good game to throw.”
Vargas retired the first 11 batters he faced. Kansas City did not get a runner to second base against Vargas after the fourth. He’s taken the mound following a Mariners loss in 14 of his 22 starts this season and has a 10-2 record with a 2.76 ERA in those games. He’s 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA in five July starts.
“There was one guy that showed up for us offensively today,” said Alex Gordon, who was 0-for-3. “That was Billy. Otherwise, we didn’t do a very good job.”
Kansas City starter Luis Mendoza (4-7) pitched five innings, allowing nine hits and four earned runs with three walks and a hit batter.
“I tried to pitch my game,” Mendoza said. “I should be more aggressive, make better pitches.”
Consecutive sixth-inning doubles from Miguel Olivo and Carlos Peguero pushed Seattle in front 4-1. After getting ahead of Brendan Ryan 0-2, Mendoza walked Ryan on four consecutive breaking balls in the dirt, one of which was a wild pitch that moved Peguero to third. That ended Mendoza’s night and put the Mariners in business with runners on first and third and no outs.
But, left-hander Jose Mijares came in to strike out Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders, before getting a ground ball from Casper Wells to get out of the jam.
Mendoza found trouble early when the Mariners piled three hits and a hit batter together for two runs in the first. Carp’s single up the middle with the bases loaded scored Ackley and John Jaso for a 2-0 lead.
It also continued a trend of the Mariners jumping on teams early. Seattle has scored in the first inning in six of its last seven games.
Carp snapped an 0-for-7 streak with his first hit since his July 24 return from Triple-A Tacoma.
Ackley’s hard single to start the game snapped his 0-for-20 streak. He finished the night 2 for 3 with two walks and a run scored.
Carp hit .286 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs after the All-Star break last year. He was slowed this year after separating his right shoulder during Seattle’s opening series in Japan.
“I’ve got two months to prove I’m past the injury and prove last year wasn’t a fluke,” Carp said.
Mendoza recorded three outs on four pitches in the third inning.
NOTES: Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma has left the team until Saturday for personal reasons. Iwakuma returned to his native Japan and will not miss a start, according to manager Eric Wedge. . The Mariners have turned a double play in 12 consecutive games coming into Thursday. . Jeff Francoeur picked up an assist after losing a fly ball in the sun in the first when he threw to second to get a fielder’s choice out. The mistake actually gave him the MLB lead in assists with 12.