Mariners maintain their stranglehold on Royals

Mariners maintain their stranglehold on Royals

Mariners maintain their stranglehold on Royals
SEATTLE -- The legendary Mariners pitcher and catcher watching the game from the luxury suite had to be impressed with the pitcher and catcher they saw in the Seattle uniforms on Saturday.

Not long after local icons Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson were welcomed into the Mariners Hall of Fame, veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood and rookie catcher Jesus Montero provided a good portion of the spark in a tidy 4-3 victory over the Royals before a sun-splashed afternoon crowd of 32,111 at Safeco Field.

Millwood broke out of a personal slump and rallied from a dicey first inning with 6 1/3 innings of six-hit ball, giving up one unearned run. Montero, who started at designated hitter, continued a tear against Kansas City with a 2-for-3 day, including a towering home run in the pivotal three-run third inning.

Oh, and Brendan Ryan came to play, too.

The slick-fielding shortstop ran all the way to the left-field line on the shallow outfield grass to fight the sun and backhand a Jarrod Dyson pop fly in the fifth inning, and in the next inning, with a runner on first base and two out, he ranged deep in the hole to his right to backhand a Yuniesky Betancourt ground ball, jumped in the air a la Derek Jeter, and fired a strike to first baseman Mike Carp, who scooped it up for the threat-ending out.

"Everybody came up and wanted to make sure we got the series, and it showed," said closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who pitched the ninth for his 13th save of the season. "We've been playing some good ball lately."

It came together on both sides of the ball for Seattle, which won its third consecutive game since returning home, although it didn't look so promising in the early going.

With one out in the first inning, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar bunted for a single and reached second base when third baseman Kyle Seager's throw sailed over Carp's head for an error. Millwood struck out Mike Moustakas for the second out, but Kansas City designated hitter Billy Butler came through with an RBI single. Millwood got Betancourt looking for the third out, striking out the side, however, and that kicked off an impressive run of pitching from the starting staff's elder statesman.

Millwood got the next seven outs until a Butler single in the fourth and departed with one out and two on in the seventh. He was replaced by left-hander Oliver Perez, who promptly induced an inning-ending double-play grounder off the bat of Eric Hosmer.

For Millwood, it was a bigger-than-usual victory, because he entered the game winless since May 23, a span of 11 starts. He lowered his season ERA to 3.90.

"Kevin threw the ball great today," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He did a great job with his fastball, used both sides of the plate, he was strong, started mixing in his breaking pitches late in the ballgame, and he's been very consistent for us.

"It was good to get him a win. We've had a tough time getting him a win as good as he's been pitching for us, so it was good to get him a win."

Meanwhile, three of the Mariners' runs came in the third, courtesy of good at-bats and a lucky break.

Casper Wells hit a one-out single off Royals starter Bruce Chen, and after Michael Saunders struck out, Montero struck back, hitting the first pitch over the wall in left field. It was Montero's 14th hit in 22 career at-bats against Kansas City and, when counting his first-inning single, marked his seventh straight multi-hit game against the Royals.

The 22-year-old is now hitting .609 (14-for-23) overall against Kansas City with two homers, 10 RBIs, eight runs and three doubles.

"I'm just trying to be patient, to look for good pitches," said Montero, who also drew a walk. "I know I'm in a hurry sometimes, and that's why I don't get base hits. So I'm trying to be patient and hit good pitches, and try to help the team to win."

The next batter in the third, Seager, hit a high pop to left field that Alex Gordon lost in the sun, and the ball fell to the grass for a double, which set up the next batter, catcher Miguel Olivo, for an RBI single that made it 3-1.

That score held until the top of the eighth, when Mariners reliever Brandon League was touched up for a run on a Gordon double and Escobar triple, but Seattle responded right away in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases and getting an insurance run on Carp's sacrifice fly.

That run proved crucial when Wilhelmsen gave up a run on a Lorenzo Cain triple in the ninth before getting Gordon to ground out for the final out.

"We battled back there at the end, just not quite enough," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Had a chance. One big hit away."

For Johnson and Wilson, enjoying their day from the good seats, it was another stepping stone toward what the Mariners hope will be a perennial contender like the clubs those club Hall of Fame legends played for.

"I like the way our guys competed," Wedge said. "I think that's one thing that's been very consistent for our guys, especially lately. They're putting up better at-bats and making pitchers work."

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB and read his MLBlog, Youneverknow. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.