The Mariners knocked Kansas City from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 12-2 win in Surprise today behind a huge day from rookie Stefen Romero. He went 4-for-5 with a double, a grand slam and a three-run homer. Casper Wells drove in four with a double and three-run homer and now has nine RBIs in his last two games. Felix Hernandez made his Cactus League debut, giving up a run and two hits in two innings, while Hisashi Iwakuma worked three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit.
Meanwhile, the Mariners sent a split-squad to Phoenix and lost 7-3 to the A’s, so they are 11-3 overall, while KC fell to 11-1-1.
MARINERS EIGHTH: Red-hot Casper Wells hit a three-run homer to go with his RBI double earlier, and now has nine RBIs in his last two games. 9-1 Mariners.
ROYALS SIXTH: Hisashi Iwakuma completed a very strong outing. He worked three scoreless innings, giving up just one hit. He struck out one — the last batter he faced — and didn’t walk any. Iwakuma threw 27 strikes out of 39 pitches. 6-1 Mariners.
MARINERS FOURTH: The Royals unbeaten record is in jeopardy as the Mariners put up a five-spot. The big hit was a grand slam by Stefen Romero, his first homer of the spring, on a 2-0 pitch from Guillermo Moscoso. Romero is 2-for-2 today, 5-for-11 in spring. Justin Smoak had an RBI double to right-center that was crushed. 6-1 Mariners.
MARINERS THIRD: They tied it up on a booming one-out double off the wall in left-center by Casper Wells, scoring Stephen Romero. But Smoak and Morse struck out looking to end the threat. 1-1.
ROYALS SECOND: Hernandez gave up a run on a single by leadoff man Lorenzo Cain (whom he thought he had struck out twice), and a one-out double by David Lough off first baseman Justin Smoak’s glove. Cain was running on the pitch and came all the way around to score. Hernandez recovered to get two popups. He threw 19 pitches in the inning, 10 for strikes, and had some command issues, not unexpected in his first outing. But he appeared to be throwing free and easy, hitting a peak of 92 mph. All told, he threw 33 pitches, 19 for strikes. 1-0 Royals.
ROYALS FIRST: Not too shabby of a first inning for Hernandez: A weak groundout by Alex Gordon, and strikeouts of Escobar (called) and Moustakas. He threw 14 pitches, nine for strikes, and hit as high as 92 mph on the gun.
MARINERS FIRST: The Mariners put two on base via an error and Michael Morse single, but Carlos Peguero struck out on a called third strike.
For some reason, this Cactus League showdown has not incited the passions of Surprise baseball fans, as a sparse crowd is on hand to watch the 10-2 Mariners face the 11-0-1 Royals. For the Mariners, of course, the big news is the spring debut of Felix Hernandez, who will be followed by Hisashi Iwakuma, Bobby LaFramoboise, Lucas Luetge, Stephen Pryor, Tom Wilhelmsen and Carter Capps.
On split-squad games, the writers’ rule is generally to go where the manager goes. But not this time. Eric Wedge is managing the Oakland game in Phoenix, but the lure of Felix’s debut was too much, and all the media is in Surprise. Bench coach Robby Thompson will manage the team here, while Tacoma manager Daren Brown will be the third-base coach, and Jackson hitting coach Cory Snyder will coach first. Pitching coach Carl Willis is in Surprise as well.