Mike Moustakas hit a long fly ball just foul down the right field line off Chance Ruffin in the 13th. Not to e deterred, moments later, he hit a long drive fair down the right field line with the count 0-2 to give the Royals a 7-6 win over the Mariners.
That kind of day.
2:45 p.m.: Raul Ibanez just came off the bench and hit a two-out, game-tying homer to right field off Greg Holland to tie the game 6-6 in the ninth. The 26th homer of the season for Ibanez moves him into a tie with Barry Bonds for third spot all-time for players aged 41 or older. Bonds also hit 28 homers at age 42. For strictly age 41, Ibanez is now second all-time.
If the Mariners come back and win it, Charlie Furbush deserves huge props for shutting the Royals down with two innings of one-hit ball.
1:40 p.m.: It’s all coming undone for the Mariners now as Brandon Maurer looked like he was throwing batting practice in the sixth inning, yielding four consecutive hits and getting charged with three earned runs against. The Royals now have a 6-5 lead and are outhitting the Mariners 15-7, which is incredible given how it was 5-0 with Seattle up 6-3 in hits at one point.
Emilio Bonifacio singled, then Eric Hosmer doubled off the top of the center field wall to get one run in. Billy Butler then hit his fourth single of the day to tie it, Brett Hayes doubled to put two on and then — after Charlie Furbush repalced Maurer — Justin Maxwell ripped a line drive to left that was caught, but deep enough to score the slow-moving Butler from third to give the Royals their first lead.
Furbush saved the day from there because the Royals seemed poised to run the Mariners right out of the ballpark that frame. The bad news is, the Mariners still have to get through the final two or three innings bullpen-wise, plus they need a run. And that will be tough with Will Smith coming in to pitch. Smith steamrolled the Mariners’ lineup in the series opener.
1:04 p.m.: Joe Saunders entered the fifth inning with a 5-0 lead and still won’t qualify for the win. The Royals scored three runs and had the bases loaded with two out when Eric Wedge gave Saunders the hook and went to Brandon Maurer. Saunders wasn’t thrilled and could be seen shaking his head in the dugout, but he was up to 103 pitches by that point and the Royals were on the verge of tying the game. Maurer struck out pinch-hitter Carlos Pena — with generosity from plate umpire Angel Hernandez — to keep the score at 5-3 as we head to the sixth.
Jamey Carroll hit a one-out double and Alex Gordon followed by cranking an 0-1 pitch from Saunders over the right field wall to get the Royals on the board. But what happened next was what did Saunders in as he allowed a one-out single to Emilio Bonifacio, then, after striking out Eric Hosmer, yielded a single to Billy Butler that sent the runner to third, another single to Salvador Perez that brought the third run in and then walked Justin Maxwell to load the bases and finish his day earlier than expected.
12:13 p.m.: Michael Saunders hit a leadoff double to left-center, took third on a groundout to the right side and scored on a lineout to left field by Brad Miller that goes down as a sacrifice fly. Mariners are cruising with a 5-0 lead midway through the fourth inning.
11:55 a.m.: The Royals might be playing themselves right out of any playoff contention today. Seattle took a 4-0 lead with an unearned third inning run after nearly playing their way out of a jam with a runner on third and one out. Justin Smoak hit a fly ball to shallow right that was not deep enough to get the run in. Kendrys Morales had wandered too far off first base and was nailed when the throw came back in to first baseman Eric Hosmer. But Hosmer, alas, dropped the ball as he tagged Morales in time for the out.
Instead of the out being recorded, Morales was back in safely on the error and a run scored from third base as the ball rolled away from Hosmer.
A half-inning prior, the Royals had runners on second and third with none out but failed to score against Joe Saunders. Needless to say, the locals in the stands here are getting quite impatient and perturbed at the home team.
11:32 p.m.: The Mariners entered today 3-for-40 with runners in scoring position, but did some two-out damage in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead after an Abraham Almonte double. Kendrys Morales picked up where he left off last night by lining a hard single up the middle to open the scoring. One pitch later, Justin Smoak belted a Jeremy Guthrie offering over the right field wall for a two-run homer.
The blast was welcome indeed for Smoak, whose hitting has vanished the last month. Going back to Aug. 5, he’d hit .179 with a .269 OBPand a .337 slugging mark for an OPS of .605. For an everyday first baseman, that’s not going to cut it. So, like I said, he needed the homer.
11:05 a.m.: Tough to believe the Mariners could actually finish with a winning road trip, given how poorly and inconsistently they’ve played throughout. But three wins over Houston helped and last night, the Mariners found enough juice left in one bat to get a hit when needed late. That defeat dealt a serious blow to the Royals’ playoff hopes, which weren’t that great to begin with. But after beating Felix Hernandez and then pulling out the second game, you know the Royals had designs on a four-game sweep. And once they tied last night’s affair with that four-run fourth inning, it all seemed lined up for a third straight KC victory.
But then, the Royals simply could not get it done against the likes of Lucas Luetge and company and allowed the stumbling Mariners offense — 3-for-40 with runners in scoring position on this road trip and 2-for-12 last night — to stay alive long enough to muster up that late Kendrys Morales homer.
In other words, the Royals know their season is pretty much on-the-line today. They’ve got a bunch of teams to climb over in the second wild-card race and just over three weeks left. They are running out of time and need to gain ground in series like these, where they take the first two of four. Splitting here accomplishes nothing.
So, Joe Saunders has his work cut out for him today. So does the offense, struggling for consistency. Abraham Almonte is batting second today, so that will be an interesting look. Michael Saunders is playing yet again, with a right-hander on the mound. We asked Eric Wedge about that this morning and he said he’s trying to juggle several outfielders and that Saunders has had to pay a price with the loss of playing time.
I asked Wedge whether he’s seen enough of Saunders already to make a definitive call on the type of player he’ll be moving forward. His answer surprised me, given how little Saunders is playing.
“No,” he said.
“No, I mean, with all of these guys, consistency is the key. I mean, you see hin one day and it’s like ‘All right, that’s what we’re talking about. And the next day, they’re off. That’s OK to an extent. But you’ve got to be more consistent than what we’ve seen. He, like so many of our other younger players, that’s what we’re trying to get. It’s a fast food society. Everybody wants it yesterday. You can make an argument that it’s been 1, 2 or 3 years and they should be there by now. Or, you can make an argument that eventually they will get there. It’s the Alex Gordon types that take a little bit longer to get there.”
Which would be fine if the Mariners knew they were getting Alex Gordon. Right now, the only outfielders Wedge says he can count of for next year are Saunders and Dustin Ackley and for now, he can only hope they’ll become full-time players. He feels they can be, but based on the evidence, he still can’t make that definitive call.
In other news, Hernandez will not make his scheduled start on Saunday. He’s been pushed back to Wednesday now for precautionary reasons. That means the rest of the rotation goes on normal rest — James Paxton was added in for Saturday’s start, making this possible — with Erasmo Ramirez going Sunday, Taijuan Walker on Monday and Saunders on Tuesday.
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