All of a sudden, and however improbably, the Royals now appear to be toying with opponents as the season winds down.
They hit three homers Tuesday night and rolled to a 6-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium. That makes five straight victories and six in the last seven games.
Sure, that might sound modest elsewhere _ and, truly, it is _ but the Royals haven’t won five straight games against American League opponents since a five-game streak from April 18-24, 2003.
That’s right. 2003.
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Brandon Duckworth, 3-1, limited the Mariners to two runs and five hits in six innings before handing a 6-2 lead to Leo Nuñez in the seventh inning. The Royals are 4-1 in Duckworth’s five starts since he replaced injured Luke Hochevar in the rotation.
Nuñez needed just nine pitches to work a one-two-three seventh. John Bale required just eight in a one-two-three eighth. Ramon Ramirez got a quick hook after allowing one run on two hits to start the ninth.
Joakim Soria got the final three outs for his 39th save in 42 opportunities.
The Royals’ homers came from John Buck, David DeJesus and white-hot Ryan Shealy. Buck also had a two-out RBI single in the fourth that put the Royals on top to stay at 2-1.
The Royals raked Seattle starter Brandon Morrow for six runs and eight hits in four-plus innings. Morrow, 2-4, entered the game with a 1.64 ERA and had made two strong starts since entering the rotation.
That ERA is now up to 2.53.
Morrow allowed those three homers, including Shealy’s two-run bomb, which capped a four-run fifth inning. It was Shealy’s fourth homer in five games and his fifth since his Sept. 2 recall from Class AAA Omaha.
The Royals reached double figures in hits _ the finished with 11 _ for the sixth straight game. They also set a franchise record for strikeouts when Duckworth finished the sixth inning, and his night, by striking Wladimir Balentien.
It was the 1,007th strikeout this season by a Royals pitcher, topping the 1,006 by the 1990 staff.
The Royals, 67-84, had a six-game winning streak from June 21-27, but all six came against National League opponents.
They also had two previous five-game streaks. All five from June 14-19 were against NL opponents. The last victory in a five-game streak from May 11-16 was against an NL team.
The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on Buck’s leadoff homer, a 412-foot boomer into the back of the Mariners’ bullpen in left field. It was Buck’s ninth homer of the season, and his first in 88 at-bats dating to July 29 at Oakland.
Seattle pulled even when José Lopez homered with one out in the fourth.
Buck put the Royals back on top in their fourth with an RBI single after Morrow issued two-out walks to Alex Gordon and Kila Ka'aihue.
DeJesus extended the lead to 3-1 by leading off the fifth with a 396-foot homer to right. It was his first homer in 179 at-bats dating to July 12 _ against Morrow at Kauffman Stadium.
Alberto Callaspo followed with a triple into the right-field corner and scored when Mike Aviles lined a single into left field. Aviles stole second before Shealy crushed a full-count fastball.
The result was a 413-foot homer over the center-field wall that extended the lead to 6-1 and finished Morrow.
Demoted starter Jarrod Washburn gave up a double to Mark Teahen and a two-out intentional walk to Buck but finished the inning without further damage.
Duckworth limited the Mariners to three hits in the first five innings but opened the sixth by yielding a double to Yuniesky Betancourt, who went to third on Lopez’s one-out single.
Jeremy Reed’s sacrifice fly cut the Royals’ lead to 6-2.