Soler's late-game heroics lift Royals to 6-4 victory over Mariners
SEATTLE — It might be because he's never received enough of a chance, but until this year, Jorge Soler has never been lumped in with the game's top power hitters.
Maybe it's time to add him to the list.
Soler hit a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning off Anthony Bass, and the Kansas City Royals rallied for a 6-4 win over Seattle on Monday night, snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Mariners.
Soler's homer was his 19th of the season, tying him with Mike Moustakas and Jermaine Dye for the most home runs in the first 72 games of a season in Royals history. He's one of three hitters in the AL with 19 homers, two behind Edwin Encarnación and his AL-best 21 long balls.
"He's been swinging the bat well for us all year. The power numbers are really good," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.
After the Royals were shut down for most of the night by Tommy Milone, the combo of Alex Gordon and Soler put Kansas City in front. Bass (1-2) easily retired the first two batters of the inning before Gordon singled up the middle. Soler followed by driving a 1-1 pitch on the outside corner out to deep right-center field.
"(I've) been seeing a lot of off-speed pitches lately and was trying not to fly open and go the other way and did," Soler said through an interpreter.
Martín Maldonado added a solo home run in the ninth.
Brian Flynn (1-0) got the victory by working two innings of relief after Danny Duffy and striking out four. Jake Diekman got the final two outs of the eighth with the tying run at second base, but Ian Kennedy faced trouble in the ninth. He allowed the first two batters to reach before striking out J.P. Crawford and Domingo Santana, then got a popout by Tim Beckham to finish his eighth save.
Flynn pitched for the first time since June 6.
"In that role, that's kind of how it goes," Flynn said. "When our starters get on a roll like they are, it's good for the team. You're not going to be the guy down there complaining about lack of innings when you're the long guy because that usually means the starters are cruising."
Seattle took a 4-2 lead in the fifth on a three-run homer from Tom Murphy, but Kansas City was able to add a key run in the seventh inning. Jorge Bonifacio doubled leading off to end Milone's streak of 11 straight retired and scored when Maldonado's sinking liner was caught on a dive by Mac Williamson in left field. Williamson had no play at the plate.
Duffy was rolling until the fifth, when he walked two to bring up Murphy with two outs. Murphy was moved up to fifth in Seattle's batting order for the first time this season, and the decision paid off with his eighth home run in his 28th game.
"He's like a totally different hitter right now than when we first acquired him, and that's a credit to him for being open to making adjustments," Seattle manager Scott Servais said.
Duffy allowed seven hits and struck out four.
For the third straight start Seattle used an opener before letting Milone take over and the results continued to be mixed. The Mariners' openers have struggled — this time Tayler Scott, who allowed two runs and recorded two outs — but Milone has thrived. Milone threw 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run and three hits. He struck out six and walked none.
In his three appearances where Seattle has used an opener, Milone has pitched 17 2/3 innings and allowed five earned runs.
"It's nice to get on a little roll like this, the confidence goes up and being able to throw quality strikes is the biggest thing," Milone said.
Royals: 3B Hunter Dozier began a rehab assignment with Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Monday. Dozier leads the Royals with a .314 batting average but has been out since injuring his right oblique May 30. Dozier went 1 for 4 and drove in two.
Mariners: Servais had a long list of injury updates. Most notable, OF Mitch Haniger (ruptured testicle) is expected to resume light activity this week, even if he's still a few weeks from being ready. RHP Hunter Strickland (lat strain) was expected to resume playing catch in the next couple of days after having a setback in his rehab. RHP Chasen Bradford (forearm) is also expected to start throwing in the next few days.
Royals: RHP Homer Bailey (5-6) snapped a five-start winless skid throwing six scoreless innings against Detroit in his last start. He allowed a season-high seven earned runs to Seattle in April.
Mariners: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (3-4) looks to pitch beyond the fifth inning for the first time in his past four starts. Kikuchi hasn't pitched into the sixth since May 19, also his last win.