Mariners jump on Jackson Kowar and hand Kansas City Royals a series loss at The K

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Kansas City Royals rookie pitcher Jackson Kowar got off track early, and he never fully straightened things out in the series finale against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

Kowar gave up five runs in the first three innings on the way to the Royals’ 7-1 loss in front of an announced 16,872 at Kauffman Stadium. Kowar, who gave up a pair of home runs, lasted through just four innings.

The loss by the Royals (67-82) gave the Mariners the weekend series victory and dropped the Royals to 2-4 on their penultimate home stand of the season. The loss also assured the Royals will finish this season with a record below .500, though they can avoid 90 losses with six wins in their final 13 games.

The Royals offense logged just three hits, one each by Whit Merrifield (1 for 4, double, run), Nicky Lopez (1 for 3, RBI) and Michael A. Taylor (1 for 2).

Royals star catcher Salvador Perez went 0 for 4. He remains tied with Hall of Famer Johnny Bench for the most single-season home runs by a primary catcher (appearing in at least 75% of their games as a catcher) with 45.

Mariners starting pitcher Logan Gilbert (6-5) tossed seven innings and allowed one run on three hits and one walk. He struck out five. He matched his career high with seven innings pitched.

Gilbert, who made his major-league debut earlier this season, snapped an eight-start stretch in which he went 0-3.

“He’s big and lanky and he’s got pretty good stuff,” Merrifield said of Gilbert. “It’s just kind one of those days, frankly. That’s pretty much all there is to it, just one of those days.”

Kowar couldn’t consistently throw strikes early, and the Mariners (80-69) took advantage of that by loading the bases on a double and back-to-back walks in the first inning.

Then Jarred Kelenic continued to play his role as a thorn in the side of the Royals pitching staff. Kelenic lined a two-run double off the wall in right-center field with one out in the first to put the Mariners ahead 2-0.

Kelenic entered the day having gone 2 for 5 with two home runs and four RBIs, two walks and two runs scored in the previous two games of the series. The two-run double wasn’t the only damage he did on Sunday.

The Mariners added a run in the second inning on Ty France’s RBI single, and then Kelenic and Jake Bauers jumped all over Kowar in the third inning for a pair of long and loud solo homers. Kelenci’s 420-foot blast to center field led off the third, while Bauer followed two batters later with a 460-foot smash to right field.

“He just had trouble getting into any kind of rhythm with, really, anything,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of Kowar. “We’re normally talking about fastball command, which is obviously part of the story here, but he a lot of times has that safety net with the changeup. But he was really having trouble finding it in the zone too. It was low, almost swing and miss right from the start. So he didn’t have a strike pitch to go to, and was fighting an uphill battle.”

In the fifth after reliever Scott Blewett had taken over, Kelenic doubled and scored on Dylan Moore’s two-out RBI single up the middle. The Mariners led 6-0 before the Royals got on the board in the sixth.

Merrifield’s two-out double put him in scoring position in the sixth, and Lopez singled to drive him in and assure the Royals avoided a potential shutout.

Mitch Haniger’s ninth-inning home run off of Tyler Zuber, the third in the game for the Mariners, capped the scoring.

The Royals begin their final road trip of the season with a doubleheader Monday in Cleveland. The Royals will start right-hander Brady Singer (4-10, 4.85) against Cleveland right-hander Triston McKenzie (5-6, 4.28) in the first game at 3:10 p.m. Central.

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