By Tim Booth / Associated Press
SEATTLE — Rookie Julio Rodríguez lined a bases-loaded, two-run double, Jarred Kelenic followed with a two-run triple on the next pitch and the Seattle Mariners beat the Kansas City Royals 4-1 Friday night.
Seattle starter Chris Flexen threw seven strong innings and the Mariners relied on one big inning to reach 5-2 on their nine-game homestand.
Salvador Perez homered in the sixth, his fifth straight game with a homer in Seattle. That was the only run Flexen (1-2) allowed as he pitched seven innings for the first time this season, scattering six hits and striking out five.
Anthony Misiewicz pitched the eighth and Andrés Muñoz threw the ninth for his first save.
But this night was about Seattle’s young outfield stars coming through with big hits in a key moment.
First up was Rodríguez, mired in an early slump of frustrating strikeouts. Rodríguez began the night tied for the league lead with 22 punchouts, but his swing decisions have been praised by Mariners coaches for laying off pitches that appear outside the zone yet have been called strikes.
Rodríguez came through in the fourth. He fouled off a tough 3-2 pitch from starter Brad Keller, then got on top of a 93 mph fastball and lined it to right-center field.
The 21-year-old slid headfirst into second base and screamed into the noise of a home crowd that has anxiously awaited big moments from the tauted prospect.
Kelenic, also with his share of bad luck at the plate early on, followed on the next pitch from Keller with a deep shot to right center that Michael A. Taylor couldn’t track down.
The fourth was the only inning Seattle was able to do damage against Keller, but he failed to make it through the fifth due to a growing pitch count. Keller (0-2) allowed six hits and three earned runs. He had given up five hits and two earned runs in his first two starts combined.
ERROR STREAK ENDS
Kansas City’s streak of 11 games to begin the season without an error ended when Keller was unable to cleanly field Abraham Toro’s grounder during Seattle’s big fourth inning. Bobby Witt Jr. also had a throwing error in the eighth. The Royals began the night as one of two teams in baseball that hadn’t committed an error along with San Diego. The 11 games to begin the season without a defensive miscue was a new American League record.
Seattle had no new addition to its list of positive COVID-19 cases for the second straight day. The Mariners have yet to have any of their players or coaching staff rejoin the team.