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Mariners, Yusei Kikuchi struggle as Kansas City takes its first road series of season

Kansas City Royals' Adalberto Mondesi, left, scores as Whit Merrifield (15) signals him to slide against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Kansas City Royals' Adalberto Mondesi, left, scores as Whit Merrifield (15) signals him to slide against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
By Scott Hanson Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Two streaks came to an end Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park, but only the Kansas City Royals left happy.

The Royals knocked around Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi, got a pair of home runs and a career-high six runs batted in from Whit Merrifield and defeated the Mariners 9-0 in front of an announced crowd of 12,697. In the process, Kansas City clinched its first winning road series of the season.

For the Mariners, it ended their string of lose one, win one at 13 games.

The Royals ended the dubious distinction of being the only team in the majors without a road series win. Miami and Texas accomplished that last month, and the rest of the big leagues had done it in April.

Now, the road-challenged Royals have a chance for a sweep.

It was a tough start from the get-go for Kikuchi, with Kansas City opening the game with three straight hits that produced a pair of runs.

Jorge Soler pushed the Royals’ lead to 3-0, with a solo home run in the third, his third RBI of the game, and Merrifield hit a three-run homer in the fourth to make it 6-0.

Kikuchi was hoping to build off last week’s solid start when he allowed one run in five innings at Minnesota. Instead, he looked like the pitcher in the three previous starts before the game against the Twins, when he lasted just 3 1/3 innings in each game, allowing 16 earned runs in that 10-inning span.

Kikuchi pitched five innings, allowing the six runs on nine hits and two walks. His season ERA rose to 5.15.

“They were on him and pretty aggressive all night,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “I was hoping he s could keep us in the game even though he gave up a couple of runs early, and give us a chance.But that was not the case. Merrifield was all over him tonight and that three-run homer was a big blow.”

The Mariners, meanwhile seemed locked in early on Royals starter Homer Bailey, who came into the game with a 5.37 ERA. Mallex Smith and J.P. Crawford opened the game with two loud outs, both driving Royals right fielder Jorge Bonifacio to the wall.

Bailey allowed the next two hitters to reach, but escaped harm, just as he did in the second inning after putting runners on first and third with one out. He got some good fortune when Mac Williamson hit a shot that Merrifield caught at first base before stepping on the bag for a double play.

The Mariners got two more runners on in the third, but the chances dwindled after that. Staked to the six-run lead in the fourth, Bailey settled down nicely, giving the sparse crowd little to cheer.

Bailey allowed five hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts and two walks. He threw 121 pitches. His previous high was 102.

“They opened the game, widened the game and he relaxed,” Servais said of Bailey.”It is easier to pitch when you’ve got that big of a lead.”

The only suspense in the final innings was the margin of victory. That grew when Merrifield hit his second homer of the game, a two-run blast in the eighth inning.

The Mariners will need Kikuchi to rebound. Servais said the left-hander, in his first year in the big leagues, needs to learn how to adapt when he does not have his best stuff.

“There are certain nights where you don’t have your crispest stuff or your best fastball, and those are the nights when you really find out what kind a pitcher you are,” Servais said. “He’s had a few of those … and you’ve still got to find a way to keep your team in the game. He has struggled to do that, and it’s on us. The pitching coaches and myself to help him along in those areas.”

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