In one of the most dramatic wins of the season, Brad Miller delivered the go-ahead home run in the ninth inning to propel the Mariners to a confidence-boosting, 7-5 win over a hot Royals team Friday in Kansas City.
After Charlie Furbush notched the final two outs with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, Miller promptly quieted a sold-out Kauffman Stadium with the big fly off closer Greg Holland.
Seattle (38-36) tacked on another run before sending out Fernando Rodney to pick up his 19th save. The win snapped a two-game losing streak and was only the second loss for the Royals in the past 12 games.
The M’s offense struggled in the first two games of the road trip, totaling two runs in two losses to the Padres in San Diego. Entering a three-game series with Kansas City, more offense was needed.
Lloyd McClendon’s club started its work early and didn’t relent after the Royals charged back.
Endy Chavez opened the game with a double and scored on Robinson Cano’s single. In the fourth inning, Mike Zunino jumped on a cut fastball from starter James Shields, sending it off the scoreboard in left field for a 2-0 lead.
Seattle added three more runs in the fifth inning when Cano delivered an RBI double to score Jones. Logan Morrison followed with a two-out home run to right.
The five-run lead appeared to be plenty for Hisashi Iwakuma, who has feasted on the AL Central in his short major-league career. He entered Friday’s start holding a 7-1 record and a 1.50 ERA in 13 starts and 102.1 innings versus the division, including a 2-0 mark and 0.00 ERA in two starts against the Royals.
Through four innings, that dominance continued as he stretched a scoreless-inning streak to 20 against the Royals. But being hot has its benefits. Kansas City, the hottest AL offense over the last two weeks (.322 average), got after the Japanese right-hander.
In the fifth inning, Kansas City sent eight men to the plate to cut the lead to 5-3. The damage came via a solo home run by Salvador Perez and a two-run home run by Mike Moustakas. Iwakuma (5-3, 3.04 ERA) rallied by generating two ground-ball outs to end the inning. The Royals got after him again in the sixth.
Billy Butler and Alex Gordon hit consecutive singles to chase Iwakuma. That left reliever Dominic Leone in his second tricky spot in as many days. Again, Leone was unable to stop the bleeding. The rookie yielded a single to Perez for his second RBI of the game and an RBI ground out off the bat of Lorenzo Cain to tie at 5.
It was Iwakuma’s second start this season in which he yielded five runs, and his shortest outing since three innings against the Red Sox a year ago. The Royals got to him for nine hits and a walk to go with five strikeouts.
The Mariners’ bullpen picked him up. Relievers Joe Beimel and Tom Wilhelmsen got the remaining two outs to end the threat in the sixth. After Wilhelmsen pitched an easy seventh, the Royals loaded the bases with one out in the eighth only to see Furbush get two outs to kill another threat.
That effort set the table against Holland, the AL’s leading closer with 21 saves.
Miller hit his sixth homer down the right-field line. That hit seemed to rattle Holland as he loaded the bases before giving up a third hit, this one an RBI single to Morrison.
Seattle received big nights at the plate from a trio of hitters against the Royals’ ace. Jones batted 3-for-4 with two runs scored, Cano went 2-for-3 with two walks and two RBI and Morrison led the way with three RBI.
Shields (8-3, 3.70 ERA) gave up five runs on nine hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out four.
Butler’s single in the second snapped an 0-for-23 mark for Royals’ right-handed hitters against Iwakuma . . . Cano extended his road hitting streak to 21 games with his first-inning single . . . OF Michael Saunders began a minor-league rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma Friday. He is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Thursday.