For the second consecutive game, the Mariners came up with a timely ninth-inning hit for a go-ahead run to beat the Royals. Saturday it was Dustin Ackley’s turn, his single driving in the difference-maker in a 2-1 win in sweltering Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Batting in place of designated hitter Jesus Montero, for whom he pinch-ran in the seventh, Ackley lined a 2-2 pitch into right field to score Kyle Seager with two outs. Fernando Rodney pitched a quick ninth inning, thanks to a 4-6-3 double play, to pick up his 20th save.
Seattle (39-36) had a tough day at the plate against former teammate Jason Vargas, who has settled in nicely on a good Kansas City (39-35) staff. Over the last month, Vargas had a 3-0 record and 2.31 ERA in 35 innings.
He was good again Saturday, pitching into the ninth in a tie game. But with two outs, the Mariners put runners on first and third thanks to a Seager double and an infield hit by Stefen Romero. That brought Ackley to the plate as Vargas’s pitch count climbed over 110.
After fouling off a couple of pitches, Ackley delivered and Seattle sent the Royals to their third loss in a row after they had won their previous 10. Instead of a complete game, Vargas (7-3, 3.16 ERA) settled for 8.2 innings and a loss. He gave up two runs on 10 hits while striking out two.
The Mariners kept it close with a sterling start from Chris Young (6-4, 3.23 ERA) , who matched zeros with Vargas. His lone mistake, a fastball that caught too much of the plate to Alex Gordon, was deposited into the right-field seats to tie the game at.
The fifth-inning hit ended Young’s perfect afternoon. He retired the first 12 hitters before Gordon led off the fifth with his ninth home run of the season.
That was all Young surrendered over seven stingy innings. The 6-foot-10 right-hander yielded three hits and a walk to go with two strikeouts. Reliever Yoervis Medina (4-1) pitched a flawless eighth inning to poach the win.
The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the third inning with a Cole Gillespie RBI single. They notched hits in multiple innings against Vargas, but failed to mount a serious threat against the left-hander until the ninth.
Brad Miller batted 2-for-3 and is hitting .293 in 58 at-bats in June. Seager and Romero had two hits apiece and Montero had a hit in a spot start. The M’s are 4-2 against Kansas City this season, with the finale of the season series Sunday.
Mariners’ OF Michael Saunders batted 3-for-4 with two RBI and a walk in his first rehab outing with Triple-A Tacoma . . . 1B Justin Smoak, also rehabbing in Tacoma, batted 0-for-3 and is now 1-for-12 with a walk in three starts with the Rainiers . . . Robinson Cano saw his 21-game road hitting streak end with an 0-for-4 performance Saturday.