Cruz, Cano homer as Karns celebrates new gig

Cruz, Cano homer as Karns celebrates new gig

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Nelson Cruz and a red-hot Robinson Cano launched home runs and newly appointed fifth starter Nathan Karns allowed four runs -- though just two earned -- over six innings as the Mariners topped a Royals split-squad team, 6-4, at Peoria Stadium on Monday.

Minor League infielder Brock Hebert added the go-ahead homer for the Mariners with a two-run shot to right field in the seventh off Royals lefty John Lannan.

Hebert's two run homer

Shortstop Alcides Escobar tripled and scored a pair of runs for the Royals, while right-hander Kris Medlen gave up eight hits and four runs (two earned) in 4 1/3 innings.

Cano hit three homers with seven RBIs on Sunday against the Cubs in Mesa, then stayed hot with another blast -- his seventh of the spring -- in the fifth inning off Medlen, after Cruz cracked his fourth Cactus League homer leading off the fourth.

Must C: Cano's crushed homer

"I felt really good the first three [innings]," Medlen said. "I changed fastball grips in the middle of my windup to Nelson Cruz for some reason. I have no idea why. But I've seen him do that a lot of times. Never to myself, but, yes, I've seen that before.. And then to get in a little bit of a jam and have to challenge Robbie Cano, 2-2, 3-2. You're not going to win a lot of those battles, really. They're two really good hitters."

Karns, who learned he'd won the Mariners' final rotation spot when James Paxton was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma earlier in the day, wasn't helped by his defense, as two errors lead to a pair of unearned runs. Karns allowed five hits with no walks and five strikeouts on 63 pitches, then he went to the bullpen to get some extra work after his efficient outing.

Karns strikes out Gordon

After getting hit hard his previous outing, Karns said he felt relieved after manager Scott Servais told him before the game that he'd won the job.

"That could have been a little pressure taken off my shoulders," he said. "But today's outing was something I've been trying to get to for a while in camp. It was nice to get in there with no walks, use all my pitches effectively and just challenge all the hitters. … I felt like a pitcher out there."

Morales plates Escobar

Karns gave up a triple to Escobar on his first pitch, and the Royals' leadoff man scored on a Kendrys Morales ground out, but Karns got out of that inning on just six pitches.

Clint Barmes singled leading off the third and scored on a throwing error on Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager on a grounder by Escobar, who then tallied his second run of the game on a bloop single down the left-field line by Alex Gordon.

Gordon's RBI single

Mariners left fielder Norichika Aoki singled twice, but the Mariners didn't cross the plate against Medlen until Cruz's homer in the fourth, a towering shot to left. Two Royals errors also resulted in a pair of unearned runs against Medlen, who was replaced after throwing 92 pitches.

Up next for Mariners: Right-hander Taijuan Walker makes his last Cactus League start in a 6:05 p.m. PT game Tuesday against the Indians in Goodyear. Walker, who'll open the year as the Mariners No. 4 starter, has a 6.88 ERA in 17 innings over five outings. The game is not televised, but can be heard live on Gameday audio.

Royals up next: The Royals take on the Giants at Surprise Stadium on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. CT in a matchup available live on MLB.TV. Right-hander Yordano Ventura will start for the Royals, followed by Danny Duffy and Chien-Ming Wang.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.