Outfielder Jorge Soler has provided the big bat and home run threat in the Royals lineup, and Monday night he also showed he’s clutch.
Soler’s two-run eighth-inning homer turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead as the Royals rallied for a 6-4 road win on the West Coast.
Left-handed reliever Brian Flynn, who hadn’t pitched since June 6, pitched two scoreless innings that proved pivotal as the Royals scored four runs in the final three innings during the opening game of a three-game series at T-Mobile Park in front of an announced 14,476.
“My game is pound (the strike zone) with heaters, give them sinker and try to let them beat it into the ground,” Flynn said. “Missed some bats because I used the slider more than usual tonight because of all the lefties.”
Flynn (1-0) shut down the Mariners offense after a three-run inning ended starter Danny Duffy’s night, and Flynn’s two-inning, four-strikeout performance kept the Mariners within striking distance.
Relievers Jake Diekman and Ian Kennedy closed it out for the Royals (24-48) in the final two innings. Diekman came in after Flynn gave up a leadoff single in the eighth.
Alex Gordon’s second hit of the night, a two-out single to left field, brought Soler to the plate as the go-ahead run. Soler stayed on a 1-1 slider on the outside corner from Seattle reliever Anthony Bass and smashed it to right-center field for a two-run homer that put the Royals up 5-4.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of off-speed pitches lately, and I was just trying not to fly open and go the other way with it,” Soler said with quality control coach/catching coach Pedro Grifol translating. “And I did.”
Soler now has 19 home runs this season. Jorge Bonifacio, Cheslor Cuthbert and Gordon had two hits apiece. Martin Maldonado drove in a pair of runs, including a ninth-inning solo home run to give the Royals an insurance run.
“That was big for our team, eighth inning, down one, get a guy on — he’s been swinging the bat well for us all year,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Soler. “His power numbers are really good, right up there at the top with the league leaders. That was a big homer for us, for sure.”
Duffy allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks (two walks in his last inning) in five innings. He struck out four and gave up a three-run home run that swung the lead to the Mariners.
The Royals gave Duffy a two-run lead in the first inning on a pair of two-out RBI singles by Cheslor Cuthbert and Jorge Bonifacio.
Through his first three innings, Duffy allowed four hits and a walk. His fastball seemed to stay up a bit more than ideal, which led to a couple hard-hit balls, but the veteran successfully maneuvered around runners. He at least one man on in each of his five innings.
The Mariners broke through in the fourth inning when Tom Murphy lined a single that shortstop Adalberto Mondesi dove and knocked down. The next batter, Kyle Seager, hit a single to right field to put runners on the corners. Dee Gordon’s fielder’s choice allowed Murphy to score from third.
While Duffy only gave up one run through four innings, his pitch count piled up as he worked around six hits and some deep counts. He’d thrown 83 pitches before the fifth inning.
Duffy walked J.P. Crawford with one out and Daniel Vogelbach with two outs in the fifth, and Tom Murphy smashed a 1-0 breaking ball for a three-run home run over the center field wall which put the Mariners in front 4-2.
Duffy struck out Kyle Seager, looking, to end the fifth, and he finished the night having thrown 105 pitches in five innings.
“I wasn’t consistent enough down to get that pitch when I needed it,” Duffy said. “I just need to be better mechanically. Right now, I’m just really pleased with the fact that we won that game because I felt like I let the whole world down after that homer. Jorge coming through like he did was enormous.”
The Royals pulled within a run, 4-3, in the seventh inning. Bonifacio doubled, advanced to third on a Nicky Lopez grounder to second, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Maldonado. Mariners left fielder Mac Williamson made a diving catch on Maldonado’s sinking line drive.
Mariners pitcher Tommy Milone allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings and struck out six after entering the game in the first inning following “opener” Tayler Scott.
Milone left the game with the Mariners ahead 4-3 before Soler homered off Bass in the eighth inning.
Notes: Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier hit a two-run single to drive in the only runs for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in the first game of a rehab assignment on Monday night. … In that same game for Northwest Arkansas, pitcher Eric Skoglund made his second appearance in the minors this season. Skoglund is on a rehab assignment while finishing up an 80-game suspension for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Skoglund gave up five runs on eight hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings.