"This one hurts, we needed to win this game," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "It was a tough road trip for us, but it's a good off-day [Monday] and get things going back home."
Yes, after this trip even the Royals are anxious to see Kauffman Stadium again, regardless of their unfriendly 17-30 record there. At least now they've lost as many games on the road as at home, very small consolation indeed.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez held the Royals to five hits and two runs in his seven innings, but the issue was decided after his departure.
Hosmer had the big hit as the Royals broke out for three runs in the eighth inning to forge a 5-5 tie.
"We didn't get much off Felix all day, and to get back there in the eighth inning and tie it was a pretty big boost for us," said Billy Butler, another contributor to the comeback. "We just couldn't hold on to it."
For some rare pleasant reading from this trip, here's how the Royals' eighth inning went:
Alcides Escobar singled off right-hander Brandon League and was on second base after a steal with two out when Butler singled him home. Salvador Perez also singled, prompting a switch to left-hander Oliver Perez to face Hosmer. Oliver Perez made a wild pitch, moving the runners into scoring position, and Hosmer brought them both home by slapping a single to left.
"I knew with him warming up in the bullpen I was going to see a lefty and I had some at-bats off him before, so I was just trying to get on his fastball," Hosmer said.
That was Hosmer's second hit of the game after he'd gone 4-for-19 previously on the trip.
Even at 5-5, Royals manager Ned Yost thought the situation was set up nicely for left-handed reliever Jose Mijares, who arrived to face left-handed hitter Mike Carp. But Carp has been hot -- he was 8-for-15 (.533) in this series -- and he blasted a double off the left-field wall.
"The key to that inning was getting the first hitter out and we couldn't do it," Yost said.
Trayvon Robinson bunted toward third and Mijares unleashed a throw past first base, pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki scoring on the error to break the tie. Right-hander Greg Holland took the mound and, after a sacrifice and an intentional walk, he gave up a run-scoring single to Casper Wells and the Mariners were up, 7-5.
The Royals scrambled back against closer Tom Wilhelmsen. Jarrod Dyson drew a one-out walk, sprinted to third on Alex Gordon's single and scored as Wilhelmsen awkwardly blocked Escobar's comebacker and literally sat on the mound, but managed to throw to first for the second out. With Gordon at second base, Lorenzo Cain struck out to end the game.
"For the second day in a row we had the tying run [in scoring position] before the final out. We just couldn't get that big hit," Yost said.
Rookie left-hander Will Smith kept the Royals in the game, trailing just 3-2 when he left after six innings.
"That's your job as a starter, to give your team a chance to win, and we just kept battling, battling, battling. We just came up a little short today," Smith said.
The lefty's own shortcoming was the inability to get out the Mariners' left-handed hitters.
"We just didn't execute pitches when we needed to. Will did a nice job, really struggled getting the ball to his glove side down against lefties. I think six of the seven hits he gave up were to left-handed hitters," Yost said. "But he got us through the sixth inning in a 3-2 game. He did a pretty darn good job."
Relievers Kelvin Herrera and Tim Collins combined to give up two runs in the Mariners' seventh that pushed them ahead, 5-2. Then came the comeback that pulled the Royals even, if only briefly.
"Definitely a win today would've been a positive, and we did everything we could," Butler said before heading home.