KANSAS CITY -- The Mariners hit four home runs, including two by designated hitter Nelson Cruz, to propel themselves to an 8-7 win over the Royals in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
With the win, the Mariners drew within a half-game of the Royals and Rays, who are tied for the second American League Wild Card spot. Kansas City remained three games behind the Indians in the AL Central after Cleveland lost to the Yankees.
The Mariners pounced on Royals left-hander Danny Duffy early, as first baseman Danny Valencia hit a two-run home run in the first inning. Third baseman Kyle Seager followed with his 16th home run three batters later.
Cruz hit his first home run of the day, a three-run shot that gave the Mariners a 7-0 lead, in the second inning. In the seventh, Cruz hit his second homer of the game, a 465-foot blast, according to Statcast™, that became the Mariners' longest home run this season.
"Cruz really swung the bat well," said Mariners manager Scott Servais, who had the big designated hitter back after he missed Friday's game with back spasms. "A couple of those balls he hit were unbelievable. That second one was just a bomb. And we needed it. We needed every run today."
Mike Moustakas hit a two-run home run, his 31st of the season, off right-hander Nick Vincent in the eighth inning to cut the Royals' deficit to one run, but Vincent didn't allow another run, and Edwin Diaz recorded his 23rd save.
"The one tack-on home run, the one that Cruz hit, ended up breaking our back right there," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Rookie Marco Gonzales allowed seven hits and five runs in four-plus innings in his Mariners debut in place of Felix Hernandez, who went on the disabled list Saturday with biceps tendinitis. Gonzales was acquired two weeks ago from the Cardinals.
"That was beautiful," Gonzales said of being spotted a seven-run lead by his offense. "That was amazing. I was thanking everybody in the dugout. That was so great. It's so nice to pitch with the lead right away. It calmed the nerves a lot and I just tried to go out and fill up the strike zone."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Coulda, shoulda, woulda: The Royals had two viable chances to prevent the Mariners from scoring four runs in the second inning. With two outs, the Royals caught Jean Segura, who walked, in a rundown but couldn't tag him out. After a single by Valencia, Robinson Cano struck out. But the pitch from Duffy skipped away from catcher Drew Butera and toward the Royals' dugout, allowing Cano to reach first and Segura to score. Cruz hit his three-run home run five pitches later. All four runs scored in the inning were unearned.
"When you give a Major League team, especially with that kind of power, four or five outs, it's going to be tough to come out of the inning unscathed," said Duffy, who took the loss.
Pazos limits the damage: After the Royals scored their third run of the game and put runners on second and third with no out in the fifth inning, the Mariners called on left-hander James Pazos. He induced an RBI groundout from Eric Hosmer, a sacrifice fly from Melky Cabrera and a popout from Moustakas to end the inning and allow the Mariners to retain a 7-5 lead. The Mariners needed seven relievers to get through the final five frames.
"We got off to a great start against Duffy, and then we challenged a lot of our guys in the bullpen," Servais said. " Everybody had to chip in."
"It feels great. I've heard such great things about this organization and the chemistry these guys have. And it's true. These guys made me feel really comfortable and welcome, and that's a huge deal to be able to play with that feeling." -- Gonzales, a Gonzaga University product, on his first game with the Mariners.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Seager's first-inning home run was the first extra-base hit by a left-hander off Duffy since April 26. Prior to Seager's at-bat, lefties had gone 1-for-26 against Duffy since he came off the disabled list in July, and they were hitting .178 on the season in 73 at-bats.
TOUGH BLOW FOR MARINERS BULLPEN
Right-handed reliever David Phelps, who had been excellent for Seattle since being acquired in a July 28 trade from the Marlins, had to leave the game with discomfort in his elbow after retiring the only batter he faced leading off the seventh. Butera flew out to center on Phelps' seventh pitch, a 93-mph fastball, before Phelps signaled to the dugout and was immediately taken out of the game. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners: Left-hander Ariel Miranda (7-5, 4.24 ERA) will start on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. PT when the Mariners open a two-game road series against the A's. New first baseman Yonder Alonso should be in the lineup for Seattle after being acquired on Sunday in a trade with Oakland.
Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy (4-7, 4.60) starts the opener of a four-game home-and-home series against the Cardinals at 7:15 p.m. CT on Monday at Kauffman Stadium. The I-70 Series shifts to Busch Stadium for the final two games on Wednesday and Thursday. Kennedy has allowed three runs or fewer in seven of his past nine starts.