Surging Mariners take on frustrated Royals
At least that’s what some in Seattle are asking as the Mariners return to Safeco Field on Friday night to face the Kansas City Royals in the opener of a nine-game homestand.
The Mariners have gone a surprising 29-14, taking hold of the American League’s second wild card without eight-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, who was suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball in mid-May for using performance-enhancing drugs.
On that day, Mariners manager Scott Servais brought together his team and delivered a simple message.
“He just said, ‘We’re a good team. We can still do this,'” left-hander James Paxton told The Washington Post. “Losing Robbie was a blow to the team. But we knew at the time everyone would have to step up to fill the void. No one guy could replace Robinson Cano.”
The results have surprised even Servais.
“Quite frankly, I couldn’t have predicted we’d go on the run we did without having your three-hole, All-Star second baseman,” the manager told The Post.
After 10 straight games against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, a span in which they went 3-7, the Mariners swept a four-game series at the Baltimore Orioles, who are in last place in the American League East.
Next up are the Royals, the AL Central cellar-dwellers.
“We’re (20) games over .500 — that bad stretch (against the Red Sox and Yankees) didn’t do anything to our confidence,” the Mariners’ Dee Gordon told The Post earlier this week. “It’s just — sometimes you lose. Every team goes through a low stretch. We’ll be fine.”
Seattle designated hitter Nelson Cruz, the reigning AL Player of the Week, returned to the cleanup spot in the lineup Thursday after missing two games with lower back tightness. He went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs as the Mariners beat the Orioles 4-2 in 10 innings.
Kennedy, who is winless in 14 starts since a 1-0 victory on April 7 at Cleveland, has allowed two or fewer runs in nine of his 16 starts this season. He’s 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA in four career starts against the Mariners.
Gonzales is 0-1 with a 12.79 ERA in two career starts against the Royals. He suffered a 10-0 defeat on April 9 at Kansas City, allowing four runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings.
The Royals are coming off a 5-4 victory Wednesday at Milwaukee. It was the first time they’ve scored five runs since June 2. They’ll be seeking their first back-to-back wins since May 29-30.
“It’s not frustration,” Royals manager Ned Yost told MLB.com of his team’s month. “Well, that’s a lie. We’re all frustrated. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen an offensive drought like we’ve had all month long. It’s pretty puzzling. There’s no answer for it.”
Kansas City outfielder Jorge Bonifacio was recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Thursday. Bonifacio, who hit .255 with 17 home runs as a rookie last season, had been serving his own 80-game MLB suspension for a failed drug test.