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Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - Page updated at 10:00 p.m.
Bullpen helps Mariners withstand late Royals rally
By Geoff Baker
Seattle Times staff reporter
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Putting on an offensive power display for the second consecutive night meant as much to Justin Smoak as it did to his team.
The Mariners hadn't won back-to-back games in exactly a month, so this 9-6 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night was a long time coming. So was the second consecutive game in which Smoak went deep, something he hadn't done in nearly two months, and something he's looking for more of in the second half.
"It's good, it puts us on the board early," Smoak said. "As you can tell, because those (Royals) guys are swinging the bats well, too. So, it's something where we're going to have to score some runs and it's good to get on the board early."
The Mariners would need as many runs as they could muster to withstand a late surge by the Royals in front of 15,769 at Kauffman Stadium. For a second straight night, the Mariners went to town on a Royals starting pitcher and then used the huge lead as a cushion to withstand the hitting assault thrown back their way.
Lake Stevens High School alum Ryan Verdugo was the victim on the mound this time. Verdugo was called up from Class AAA by the Royals to make his big-league debut in an emergency start after Seattle knocked Kansas City starter Jonathan Sanchez out of Monday's game just 1-1/3 innings in.
Verdugo managed one more out than Sanchez did before being pulled, sitting on the short end of a 6-0 score. Smoak helped seal Verdugo's fate in the first inning by crushing a fastball just inside the left-field foul pole for a two-run homer.
Jesus Montero opened the scoring with a double — his first of three hits — and Kyle Seager helped end Verdugo's night in the second with a two-out, two-run double. Michael Saunders later crushed a two-run homer to center field off reliever Vin Mazzaro in the fifth to make it an 8-3 contest after the Royals began coming back against Blake Beavan.
After the Royals scored three more off Beavan and the bullpen in the seventh, Lucas Luetge notched five consecutive outs before Tom Wilhelmsen closed out the ninth.
The Mariners had a scare in the seventh when Charlie Furbush left the game with tightness in his left triceps after getting a ground out on his second pitch.
Shawn Kelley came in with a runner on and served up a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Lorenzo Cain. But the twinge in Furbush's arm didn't last, and he threw between 12 and 15 pitches in an indoor batting cage afterward.
"I did all the tests and passed all the tests with flying colors," said Furbush, who had Tommy John ligament-transplant surgery in 2008 and wanted to take every precaution. "It could have just been that my arm was in the wrong slot, or a variety of things. I don't really know ... it could have been just one pitch that came out weird."
Beavan had a tough time getting a rhythm going with all the hitting his teammates were doing early. The Mariners called Beavan up from Class AAA before the game and demoted Steve Delabar to the minors to free up the roster spot.
"I just tried to keep focused on what I was trying to do out there, which was to go out and have quick innings and get us back into swing mode," Beavan said. "For the most part, the defense helped me do a good job of that, to get back in. It gave them an opportunity to score some more runs."
The Royals got to Beavan with consecutive triples in the third by Jarrod Dyson and Alex Gordon, then run-scoring singles by Alcides Escobar and Billy Butler. But Beavan settled down and retired 10 in a row before the Royals opened with a single and run-scoring double in the seventh.
The Mariners finished with 14 hits — including at least one by each batter in the lineup. Eight of the nine batters scored at least a run, and the Mariners could have had more if not for some snagged line drives.
Smoak was robbed of a run-scoring single in the fifth when left fielder Gordon raced in for his line drive. It was the second night in a row Smoak has been robbed of a hit on a ball scorched toward the outfield.
"As long as I can keep doing that as often as possible, good things are bound to happen," said Smoak, who entered the series batting .199. "You've got to stay confident out there, grind out at-bats and keep having fun."
Montero now has five hits his first two games this series after a prolonged slump.
"I went through a little struggle for a couple of weeks," Montero said. "Oh my God, it was getting crazy. I just tried to work on my routines, and now I feel better at the plate. I see better pitches, and I'm not swinging at bad pitches."
No, but he and the Mariners do keep hitting just about everything in sight.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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