As the visiting Mariners wrap up their four-game series with the Kansas City Royals on Thursday, Seattle manager Scott Servais looks for more normalcy against an opponent that often provides “crazy games.”
The first two games of the series were wild enough, featuring a spoiled no-hitter, exciting and lengthy comebacks (some also spoiled), a squeeze bunt walk-off win, and a four-homer inning.
“It hasn’t been easy here, a lot of close games, a lot of crazy, back-and-forth games,” Servais said. “It’s been that way for a while, going back to the series we had here last year when we had a couple of games get away from us.”
In last year’s final matchup, the host Royals exploded for 11 runs in the sixth inning, overcoming a nine-run deficit to win 13-12. The comeback matches Kansas City’s largest ever.
“They’ve got young guys trying to prove themselves going up there trying to bang the ball all over the place, and they’re having success against us offensively,” Servais said.
Kansas City scored 15 runs — three unearned — in the first two games of the series, more than Seattle pitchers surrendered through their previous seven games.
“We’ve got to make the plays as well,” Servais added. “That’s the thing that’s stood out to me that’s happening in crazy games with the Royals, we’ve cracked the game open for them and when it’s open they go running through it. We’ve got to make sure we play good defense.”
With five more runs allowed Wednesday, opponents have scored at least five runs in four straight games, the first time this year.
The Mariners send right-hander George Kirby (10-8, 3.11 ERA) to the mound for Thursday afternoon’s series finale.
Kirby is unbeaten in five starts since July 20, going 2-0 with a 1.97 ERA and 38 strikeouts against just three walks. Despite hurling nine shutout frames last Saturday, he took a no-decision in the 1-0, 10-inning loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. Kirby has never faced the Royals.
Lefty Ángel Zerpa (1-1, 7.71) will make his first start since July 26 last year. In three previous career starts, he is 1-2 with a 1.29 ERA. Zerpa has never faced the Mariners.
One of the “young guys trying to prove themselves,” Bobby Witt Jr. saw his 16-game on-base streak end Wednesday. During the streak — bookended by grand slams July 28 and Aug. 15 — Witt became the second player in baseball history with at least 30 hits, seven homers, 25 RBIs and six stolen bases over any 16-game stretch; Larry Walker was the first, in 1997.
“He’s basically playing like you would in Little League,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said Tuesday. “Hitting homers, stealing bases, he’s doing it all right now. That’s the kind of ability he has, but to be able to put it together at this level is really difficult. You can’t take it for granted.”
With 21 of his 23 homers occurring while playing shortstop, Witt matched Jay Bell for the franchise record at the position and became the club’s second player to hit an inside-the-park home run and a grand slam in consecutive games, following Danny Tartabull in 1987.
—Field Level Media
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