KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — When a club is struggling to hit, as are the Kansas City Royals, it probably would prefer not to face a pair of aces in the next two games.
But after being swept by the Seattle Mariners with a 2-1 loss Sunday, the Royals have to face Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on Monday and Tuesday.
“They are elite pitchers, for sure,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I think our guys are capable and they know that they are capable putting runs on the board against anybody.”
The last time the Royals erupted was last Monday and Tuesday when they scored 11 runs each day in victories at Detroit. The Tigers’ losing pitchers were Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, two former American League Cy Young winners.
“We definitely didn’t swing the bats like we know we can against Seattle,” Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. “We’ll bounce back. We’ll get it going. Pitching is tough, regardless the names or what-not. We’ve just got to go up there and jump on him (Greinke) like he’s any other pitcher. It’s a tough series coming up, but we’ll be ready to go.”
Rookie Roenis Elias pitched neatly into the seventh inning and Mike Zunino homered for the Mariners, who have won 18 of their past 26 road games.
Fernando Rodney, working for the fourth consecutive day, picked up his 21st save in 23 opportunities.
After winning 10 straight to move into first place in the AL Central, the Royals have dropped four in a row, three of them by 2-1 scores.
“We’re playing fine, but just an offensive down turn a little bit,” Yost said. “You go through the ups and downs. A four-game losing streak right when you had put together a nice 10-game winning streak, it’s tough.”
Elias (7-5), a 25-year-old left-hander from Cuba, limited the Royals to one run and five singles over 6 2-3 innings. He struck out five, walked two and improved to 4-1 in June.
Zunino hit his ninth home run, tops among AL catchers. He connected off Yordano Ventura (5-6) leading off the seventh to break a 1-all tie.
“Even though things aren’t going our way right now, I think we’re playing really good,” Ventura said with teammate Bruce Chen acting as the translator.
Zunino led off the fifth with a double and scored on Willie Bloomquist’s two-out double.
“We stepped up to the challenge and were able take three from them,” Bloomquist said. “It shows what we’re able to do when we play well. Those guys are a very, very good baseball team. Granted, a bounce here or there and it could have come out differently.”
Ventura had won his previous three starts.
“He hung a breaking pretty good (to Zunino),” Yost said. “Outside of that, he pitched a great ballgame. Anytime you go seven innings and give up two runs you give your team a chance to win a game that’s a great job.”
The Royals scored their run in the second, which Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez opened with singles. Justin Maxwell’s sacrifice fly brought home Gordon.
Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar left in the seventh with a bruised left shin. He was hit in the second by a pitch. X-rays were negative.
NOTES: Royals 3B Danny Valencia, who missed 19 games with a muscle strain in his left hand, was activated from the disabled list. He went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. The Royals optioned RHP Louis Coleman to Triple-A Omaha as they opted to go with a 12-man staff.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)