Mariners can’t afford slip-up against Royals


After spoiling Jonathan Heasley’s major league debut Friday night, the Seattle Mariners will pursue another road victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

The Royals (66-81) and Mariners (79-68) will square off in the second game of a three-game series with Seattle looking to keep its postseason hopes alive while Kansas City focuses on the future.

The Mariners will send Yusei Kikuchi (7-8, 4.23 ERA) to the mound to face Kris Bubic (4-6, 4.99) in a battle of left-handers.

Heasley became the fifth Royals pitcher selected in the 2018 draft to appear for the big-league club. Kansas City became the first club in major league history to have five pitchers from the same draft class start a game in the same season for the team that selected them.

He joined Bubic, Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch.

Heasley’s lone problem Friday was Jarred Kelenic. The Seattle center fielder hit a pair of two-run homers in the Mariners’ 6-2 victory, accounting for all four runs Heasley yielded in his four-inning stint. He gave up six hits and no walks while striking out two.

Bubic is more experienced than Heasley, relatively speaking, having arrived in the majors in July 2020.

“I don’t really consider myself so young anymore,” he said. “I’ve had enough innings and experience that I think I can go out there and give the team a chance to win without any excuses.”

Bubic has posted four straight no-decisions, including a start at Seattle on Aug. 27. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings in that contest, his first career appearance against the Mariners, allowing five runs on nine hits.

Bubic was excited to see Heasley’s debut Friday night. He believes that watching the others from the 2018 draft succeed is motivation for each of them.

“I think intrinsically we’re all competitors,” he said. “We’re all trying to get better every day, and we’re trying to bring the best out of each other every day. You always want to follow up a good performance with another good performance. That’s what good teams do.”

The Mariners emerged with the victory Friday but made little headway in the American League wild-card race, as three of the four teams ahead of them also won. Seattle sits 3 1/2 games back of the New York Yankees, who hold the final AL playoff position.

Seattle manager Scott Servais knows that his team has to be ready for Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who leads the major leagues in RBIs (112) and ranks second in home runs (45). But that can’t be their only focus.

“We spend a lot of time trying to prepare for Salvador Perez,” he said. “He’s had some kind of season. You can’t get so locked in on him that you (ignore) the guys that hit ahead of him. You have to make sure you keep those guys off base and limit the damage he can do.”

Kikuchi has lost two straight decisions and hasn’t recorded a win in his past seven starts. He faced the Royals on Aug. 26 in Seattle, getting a no-decision after allowing four runs on four hits in five-plus innings.

In his latest start, he struck out eight batters and permitted only one run in five innings Sunday vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks, again in a no-decision.

Kikuchi credits Servais with his success.

“We sat down a couple times actually, and he mentioned to me that I didn’t have to necessarily worry too much about the result of today,” Kikuchi said. “He told me to just go out and compete and be aggressive. I think that advice helped a lot. Took a lot of weight off my shoulders.”

Kikuchi is 0-1 with a 7.31 ERA in three career starts vs. the Royals.

–Field Level Media

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