Game time: 10:10 p.m. ET
Venue: T-Mobile Park, Seattle, WA
Where to watch: Bally Sports Kansas City, ROOTNW
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Mariners -170, Royals +150
Season record (entering Thursday)
Royals: 56-70 (4th place, AL Central)
Mariners: 69-58 (3rd place, AL West)
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Royals - Mariners preview and analysis
Recent form (entering Thursday)
Royals: 7-3 in last 10
Mariners: 7-3 in last 10, won 3 straight
File this under “things you didn’t expect to say two months ago”: Here come the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners are like Camille Chen in the State Farm commercial
: The playoffs (dollar bill on fishing line) are right there. All you’ve got to do is grab it. The fisherman is their own self-imploding debacles.
But after years of wondering if the Mariners could ever get back to the playoffs, they have as great a chance now as they ever did. They’ll look to continue that run Friday in the second game of their four-game series against the Kansas City Royals in Seattle.
Funny that just a week ago, the Mariners didn’t look like a team ready for the bright lights. They lost two of three to the Houston Astros over the weekend, getting blasted by a combined two-game score of 27-4. Then they beat the Astros in the finale, 6-3 in extras, to at least get some sour taste out of the mouth.
Then came this two-game set at the Oakland Athletics, who just came off a grueling series loss to the San Francisco Giants. Not only did the Mariners win, but their pitching dominated in that series, most notably ace Chris Flexen having 6.2 innings of work while tallying five strikeouts.
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the Mariners are only 2.5 games out of the second wild card spot that’s currently occupied by the Boston Red Sox. Seattle has pulled within one game of the A’s in the standings; it’s even a 6.5-game gap in the American League West. I’m not saying it’s out of the realm of possibility, but the Mariners are looking to be that team that’s catching fire at the right time.
Logan Gilbert is expected to be on the bump for the Mariners. He’s 5-5 with a 5.16 ERA. The right-hander has not won a decision since July 30 against the Texas Rangers. Seattle has lost his last four starts, all in August, and he’s given up 19 runs in that stretch.
That alone is why you shouldn’t count out the Royals, especially with how well they’ve played to top competition as of late. Despite losing two of three to the Astros this week, it wasn’t long ago that the Royals actually took three of four from Houston at Kaufmann Stadium. But the Royals couldn’t maintain a 5-3 lead they gathered in the seventh on Wednesday, only to end 6-5 in a losing effort.
Kansas City isn’t going to make the playoffs, but if you’re watching the Royals the rest of the way, you need to be on 40-homer watch. Salvador Perez’s unfathomable power season continued Wednesday with his 34th home run of the season. The path to 40 starts Thursday against Yusei Kikuchi. Following Kikuchi is expected to be southpaw starter Kris Bubic on Friday. The 24-year-old is 4-6 with an ERA of 4.94 and a WHIP of 1.46.
You want to root for the teams that come out of nowhere and make the playoffs. Seattle’s story is fun and casual fans should get behind the Mariners, even if it means meeting the New York Yankees in the wild card game. That said, Gilbert has not pitched well this month, and the Royals’ timely bats give way to believe Kansas City will get another quality win against another quality opponent on this day. Royals win 6-5.
The under is 5-0 in the Royals’ last five Friday games.
Seattle is 10-2 in the last 12 meetings.
The over is 15-5-1 in the last 21.
Players to watch
Royals: Whit Merrifield is a terror once he gets on base. He has hits in six of his last seven games and is batting . 306 in August alone. He’s coming off a 4-RBI game Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.
Mariners: Third baseman Ty France extended his hitting streak to seven games on Tuesday. He has four homers and seven RBI during that run.
Whit Merrifield (R) 2B
Nicky Lopez (L) SS
Salvador Perez (R) C
Hunter Dozier (R) 1B
Andrew Benintendi (L) LF
Michael A. Taylor (R) CF
Hanser Alberto (R) DH
Ryan O'Hearn (L) RF
Emmanuel Rivera (R) 3B
J.P. Crawford (L) SS
Mitch Haniger (R) RF
Ty France (R) 1B
Kyle Seager (L) 3B
Abraham Toro (S) 2B
Luis Torrens (R) DH
Tom Murphy (R) C
Jarred Kelenic (L) CF
Dylan Moore (R) LF
Batting average: Whit Merrifield (.280)
Hits: Whit Merrifield (142)
Home runs: Salvador Perez (34)
RBI: Salvador Perez (82)
Stolen bases: Whit Merrifield (37)
Wins: Mike Minor (8)
Saves: Scott Barlow (8)
ERA: Mike Minor (5.30)
Batting average: Ty France (.291)
Hits: Ty France (128)
Home runs: Kyle Seager (29)
RBI: Kyle Seager (82)
Stolen bases: Dylan Moore (18)
Wins: Chris Flexen (11)
Saves: Kendall Graveman (10)
ERA: Chris Flexen (3.54)
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