Mariners take two out of three in Kansas City

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After Splitting a two-game series with the Giants and splitting a snow-shortened series against the Twins, the Mariners headed to Kansas City for a three-game series against the Royals.

Game 1: Marco Gonzales (1-0) vs. Jakob Junis (1-0)

Coming off an 11-4 thumping of the Minnesota Twins, the Mariners looked to continue their success against the Royals. Marco Gonzales had looked stellar in his first outing for the Mariners, but he struggled with control and it just wasn’t his day. After giving up three runs on forty-three pitches in the first inning, Marco was never able to figure it out lasting only 2.1 innings and giving up four earned runs on eight hits.

On the other side, Junis was basically unhittable for the Royals. Flirting with a no-hitter until the seventh inning when a Dan Vogelbach single with one out broke it up, Junis ended his night giving up only that one hit in seven dominant innings. The game ended in a 10-0 blowout with position player Taylor Motter even making an appearance as pitcher for the Mariners. Luckily 10-0 still only counts as a single loss and the Mariners will look to bounce back in game 2.

Game 2: Felix Hernandez (1-1) vs. Eric Skoglund (0-0)

Aces in baseball seem to always right the ship for teams on a losing streak or coming off a tough loss, and Mariners fans have grown accustomed to Felix being the antidote for struggles in the win column. In game two of the series, Felix provided the solid performance that the Mariners lacked the night before, throwing a steady 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball against the Royals. Although he didn’t have his best stuff, and gave up a two-run homer to the suddenly on-fire Mike Moustakas, Felix was able to pitch through tough innings and avoid major blowups in a gutsy outing. With the way the bullpen has pitched so far this year for the Mariners, just reaching the late innings with a lead is sufficient, and Felix was able to do just that.

After only getting two hits the night before, the Mariners bats made an appearance early against Royals starter Eric Skoglund. Jean Segura led the charge providing the performance we had grown so accustomed to the previous season. He finished a home run away from the cycle, and ended the night 3-5 with two RBIs and two runs. Robinson Cano and Mitch Haniger continued their torrid start to the season getting one and two RBIs respectively. Cano’s RBI coming on a shot to center field that landed just short of the wall for a double. The Mariners bullpen has been striking out batters at an astounding rate to start the season. That was showcased on Tuesday with Dan Altavilla, James Pazos, and Edwin Diaz combining for six strikeouts in 3.1 scoreless innings of one-hit ball. Diaz has been on another level so far this season, and on Tuesday he struck out the side in the ninth to raise his strikeout total to eleven K’s in just fourteen batters faced. That amounts to a ridiculous 79% strikeout rate for opposing batters against Diaz. Nasty!

Game 3: James Paxton (0-1) vs. Danny Duffy (0-2)

James Paxton has uncharacteristically struggled to start the 2018 season. After getting attacked by a bald eagle in his last start and giving up six runs in his first start, the Paxton of old made an appearance, and he was downright nasty in his third start. Coming into the game with a slider that had yet to yield a hit, Paxton showcased the pitch on the way to ten K’s in six innings. Tying his career high in strikeouts, many of which were feeble swings and misses, Paxton reminded fans that he is a force to be reckoned with. If this is a sign of things to come, one can’t help but feel giddy at the prospect of Paxton making lineups look foolish for the rest of the season. The bullpen was dominant once again for the Mariners, not surrendering a run in three innings of relief.

Kyle Seager has historically been a slow starter at the plate in his career. A career .246 batting average in March and April has forced many fans to grow accustomed to waiting until the summer to rely on the former All-Star’s bat. Wednesday however, Seager was in midseason form going 2-3 with 3 RBIs including a two-run shot in the eighth that proved to be the difference in the 4-2 win. Dee Gordon upped his hitting streak to start the season to ten games (he has a hit in every one of his games as a Mariner), and scored on Seager’s sacrifice fly in the first inning.

Looking Ahead

The Mariners are 6-4 on the season after taking two out of three games from the Royals, and look to continue their strong start when they start a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics (in Seattle) on Friday. Ben Gamel is expected to make his debut on Friday night. Both Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino are making progress as well in their rehab stints, and are expected to make their returns during the series. Ryon Healy injured his ankle and was placed on the ten day disabled list retroactive to April 8th. The Mariners will look to continue their four man starting rotation to start the season with Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales, and Felix Hernandez expected to be the starters for the three game series.

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