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Originally published July 29, 2012 at 6:00 PM | Page modified July 30, 2012 at 6:25 PM

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Mariners hold off Royals' surge to complete sweep

Seattle earned its first four-game sweep at home in 11 years with the 7-6 victory.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Monday

Toronto @ Seattle, 7:10 p.m., ROOT Sports

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There would inevitably come a point in this four-game sweep where the Mariners would be challenged by a visiting team that spent too much of this weekend looking uncompetitive.

And when the Kansas City Royals finally decided to play some ball on Sunday afternoon, the Mariners were ready to answer. Even after a stunning late comeback by Kansas City, the Mariners still had enough left to pull out a 7-6 victory and their first four-game sweep at home in 11 years.

In a difficult season, with the trade deadline and more changes looming, this recent stretch of play by the Mariners will at least buy them some breathing room for what could be a tough two months ahead.

"We've had confidence in each other the whole time," said Kyle Seager, who collected three hits and drove in two key runs in the seventh with a bases-loaded, two-out single. "We can have our ups and downs and everything, but we've never lost faith in each other. We know we have really good pitching and we know we can be a good offensive team, too."

That pitching will likely take a hit in coming days with the Mariners expected to deal some arms in order to boost an offense that hasn't been very good against anyone but the Royals. Seattle has scored 52 runs in eight games against the Royals this month, while tallying just 45 runs in 16 games against everybody else.

A crowd of 19,402 at Safeco Field saw Felix Hernandez allow two runs over seven innings for a 5-2 lead that looked like a relatively sure victory. But then one of Seattle's more-likely trade pieces, relief pitcher Brandon League — with rumors swirling about his possible trade destination — went out and yielded three runs on three hits in the eighth.

The final two of those runs scored with Oliver Perez on the mound. Perez uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners up, then allowed a tying single to left by Eric Hosmer.

But Mike Carp helped the Mariners pull out a win by leading off the bottom of the eighth with a double. Trayvon Robinson then laid down a perfect bunt to the right of home plate and raced up the line.

Royals pitcher Jose Mijares had little chance of getting Robinson, but tried to make a throw and saw the ball go down the right-field line for an error. The go-ahead run scored on the play and Robinson advanced to second. He came home on a Casper Wells single for a 7-5 lead.

Kansas City got a run back in the ninth off Tom Wilhelmsen, who fanned Lorenzo Cain on a 98-mph fastball to end the game with the tying run on second.

"Both teams fought very hard," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Both teams had to come back. But these are the types of games where you're glad you're the home team. You get those final at-bats if you need them."

The Royals fought much harder than in the opening two games of the series and were less mistake-prone than in Saturday's sun-impacted game. Royals starter Will Smith kept things close before Robinson doubled to bring home Seager in what became a two-run fourth inning that put Seattle up 3-1.

Robinson is up here mainly for depth while Franklin Gutierrez recovers from a concussion, but Robinson is making the most of his opportunity. He has two hits in two consecutive left-field starts and is using his speed to make a difference.

Wedge said pregame that nothing permanent has been decided about the leadoff spot for next year with Ichiro gone. Robinson would appear to be a longshot for the role.

"I just want to get on base and score runs," Robinson said. "Whatever it takes to help the team, I don't care whether I'm batting first, second, sixth or ninth. I just want to get on base."

The game could have ended on a sour note after Hernandez took a line drive off his non-throwing hand near the wrist in the fourth inning. But Hernandez stayed in the game — imploring catcher Miguel Olivo to ease up on his tosses back to the mound between pitches — and X-rays taken afterward were negative.

Pitching has been a positive of late for the Mariners. The starters are 7-1 with a 1.67 earned-run average and 52 strikeouts over the last 11 starts. How much that could be affected by possible trades involving Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood remains to be seen.

But the Mariners are building the win column, improving to 11-6 since the All-Star break — 7-1 against the Royals — to get within 10 games of .500.

"We're playing awesome baseball right now," Hernandez said. "We're doing good things. We're doing the little things, the right things. We're hitting when we've got men in scoring position. That's how you win games."

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com.

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