The Kansas City Royals play host to the Seattle Mariners on Sunday afternoon from Kauffman Stadium in the finale of their three-game series. The Royals dropped the opener but wasted no time battling back on Saturday, coming away with an 8-1 win to even up the series. With the Mariners struggling to stay within fighting distance in the AL Wild Card, every game is crucial, especially against inferior teams like the Royals. For Kansas City, playing the role of spoiler is something that they've become more and more accustomed to over the last few years once September rolls around and stepped up to the challenge on Sunday. On the season as a whole, the Royals have taken the majority of games and Sunday will serve as the finale and last chance for the Mariners to salvage much of anything between the two teams. Fans can expect a great game on Sunday and one that can help to continue to shape the American League playoff picture.
Mariners Aim To Stay AliveThe Mariners have had an up and down season and while fans might say that they look every part of a playoff team, they'll need to find a way to prove it on the field. Saturday's result against Kansas City was somewhat surprising and Sunday is an opportunity to snag a series win. With the season winding down, every win is so important for everyone but especially for the Mariners with a glimmer of hope into postseason action. The injuries have continued to add up though for Seattle and a handful of stars and starters aren't expected to make a return this weekend, let alone this season, including Ken Giles (elbow), Kyle Lewis (knee), Shed Long Jr. (shin), and Evan White (hip flexor). The good news is that with no day-to-day injuries to worry about, the coaching staff can fully focus on the key matchups and game plan for Sunday as opposed to worrying about who might or might not play.
High praise from ‘Gar. pic.twitter.com/aMgAkIqnkO— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) September 18, 2021
Seattle's offensive numbers were a concern from the start of the season and while they've improved to 23rd in baseball in runs per game, they still rank last in both batting average and hits per game. Their home run prowess has been their saving grace so far this season and could be crucial down the stretch, especially with the offense beaten up by injuries. A balanced lineup has helped and Mitch Haniger has been the undisputed leader. He's hitting .320 over the last week, with three home runs, and has teamed up with Jarred Kelenic, who has four home runs, to form a nice duo in the middle of the lineup. Luis Torrens is hitting .353 in the last six games himself and add that to a host of other players hitting between .250 and .300, has Seattle looking like they might be turning a corner as the season draws to a finish.
According to MLB.com, Logan Gilbert will get the ball to try to clinch the weekend series. Gilbert, who entered the season as one of Seattle's brightest prospects, has improved steadily as the season has gone on. He enters Sunday with a 5-5 record and 4.97 ERA. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in three starts this month and already has one start against the Royals this season. In that August 27th start, he went four innings, allowing nine hits and five earned runs, and will need to be sharp to keep the Kansas City offense off-balance.
Royals Look For Home Field AdvantageThe Royals have had one of the more interesting seasons in the American League and would love nothing more than a strong finish, including a series win, to help shape momentum into the offseason. The Royals actually spent parts of the first two months not only in first place in the AL Central but stops the American League as a whole. That clearly isn't the case anymore but Kansas City has plenty in the tank to be able to take down Seattle, especially being at home. The Royals have their own injuries to worry about but none seem as impactful as what Seattle is dealing with. Brad Keller (shoulder) remains the biggest name and is out for the rest of the season, as is Mike Minor (shoulder), Brady Singer (COVID19 list), and a host of other pitchers. Without any positional players finding themselves in doubt for Sunday, a dangerous lineup will be ready to go.
The Royals have quietly put together one of the best lineups in baseball. They rank sixth in baseball in batting average and seventh in hits per game. Despite that success, they only rank 22nd in runs per game and have struggled to find timely hitting. Nicky Lopez has had a breakthrough season, while Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield have continued to prove their worth in the middle of the lineup. Merrifield is hitting .345 in the last week, while Lopez, Perez, Andrew Benintendi, and Hunter Dozier, all are also above .300. Perez has also added three home runs and Dozier two. With success being contagious and so much of it within the lineup on the weekend, Sunday could see an offensive breakthrough for the home team.
According to MLB.com, the Royals will look for one of their own prize prospects to get the ball, as Jackson Kowar looks to secure the weekend series. He enters with an 0-3 record and 11.50 ERA across five starts but has only struggled more of late. He's allowed eleven combined runs across his last two starts and will need to return to his early-season form to give the Royals a chance at home.
The top team trends, according to covers.com, are: - Mariners are 7-0 in the last seven meetings with the Royals in Kansas City. - Mariners are 12-5 in the last 17 meetings overall against the Royals
The top team trends, according to covers.com, are: - Royals are 1-4 in Kowar's last five starts on grass.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Seattle looks sharp in the opener on Friday but a slight lull on Saturday sets up a must-win on Saturday. That must-win idea is what will help get the Mariners to the finish line on Sunday. For the Royals, while an up and down season would love to finish on a high note, they still lack the consistency to take down a team like Seattle. The Mariners remain right in the thick of the Wild Card race for good reason and their offense has stepped up in a big way of late. Haniger is one of the toughest outs in the American League and the depth in their lineup is able to match that which Kansas City can produce at home. For the Royals, to expect some turnover in the starting lineup make sense and that will impact what their offensive production might look like. Expect a solid start from the better starter in Gilbert and for the Mariners to secure the series win on Sunday.
Full-Game Total Pick
The Royals have a quietly dangerous lineup based on the big bats they have in the middle of the lineup. Perez remains one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League and adding in the supporting cast help means Gilbert could give up a few big plays early. For the Royals, they don't have the pitching to stop Seattle, who has only become stronger and stronger of late on offense and from a run-scoring view. Additionally, according to covers.com, for Seattle, the over is 4-0-1 in Gilbert's last five starts as a favorite, 4-0 in his last four Sunday starts, 5-0-1 in his last six starts against a team with a losing record, 4-0 in his last four starts following a quality start his last time out, and is 4-0 the last four times they've played in a game three of a series. In meetings between the two teams, the over is 7-2-1 in the last 10 meetings in Kansas City and is 8-3-1 in the last 12 meetings between UConn and Army overall.