The Seattle Mariners are approaching the finish line of the season with a chance to end the longest playoff drought in the North American professional sports. The Mariners have not played postseason baseball since 2001.
The Mariners (82-67) and the Royals (61-89) will begin a three-game series Friday night in Kansas City. Seattle will hand the ball to Marco Gonzales (10-14, 4.01 ERA), while Kansas City will turn to Brady Singer (9-4, 3.07).
Seattle holds a four-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles (78-71) in the race for the third and final American League wild card. On Thursday, the Mariners blew a 3-0 lead and fell behind Oakland, then scored the next six runs to claim a 9-5 victory over the host Athletics.
Adam Frazier had a two-run double and an RBI single to lead the Mariners' offense.
The Royals completed a three-game sweep of the visiting Minnesota Twins on Thursday with a 4-1 victory on Thursday. Kansas City starter Jonathan Heasley allowed one run on two hits in six innings.
Even more impressive, the Royals' bullpen did not allow a run in 11 2/3 innings in the series. Brad Keller, a longtime starter, picked up his first career save in the finale.
"Today it was special because we used a new cast of characters," Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said after the Thursday win. "We had four guys (unavailable) today as a cost of chasing two wins in two days. To be able to include Carlos (Hernandez) and Brad, to say, 'Hey, we need you to get the job done,' was really important.
"It's been impressive to watch each of the pieces come together and to put some guys in spots they haven't been before and watch them respond."
Gonzales, the longest-tenured pitcher on the Mariners' staff, is 4-1 with a 4.11 ERA in six career starts against the Royals. He is set for his first appearance against Kansas City this season.
In his latest outing, Gonzales allowed five runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings during a loss to the Angels on Sunday. He served up three home runs. Two of those were hit by Luis Rengifo, one of them on a changeup purposely below the strike zone. Rengifo made a lunging swing on the pitch and muscled it more than 400 feet over the wall in left-center.
"Somehow he hit that changeup out," Gonzales said. "I looked at Curt (Casali, Seattle's catcher,) right away and he said it was down. We were both kind of just mind-blown. That was impressive for sure."
Singer has been Kansas City's best starter this season. He began the season in the bullpen for the first time in his career and eventually was sent to Triple-A Omaha. However, he responded. He struggled a little in June but has won his past five decisions.
The 26-year-old right-hander has been even more impressive over his past two starts. Against the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 11 and the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, Singer threw a combined 13 scoreless innings. He allowed nine hits, walked two and struck out 11 in those contests.
Singer held the Red Sox to five hits and one walk in six innings. He struck out five. Half of the six men who reached base against Singer did so in one inning, and he stranded all three.
Singer has faced the Mariners twice in his career, including a relief outing early this season when he retired both batters he faced. He allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits in six innings during a no-decision on Aug. 29, 2021, in Seattle.
--Field Level Media