KANSAS CITY, Mo.--Brad Miller will get the headlines, and rightfully so. After all, it was his solo home run off Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland that broke the tie in the ninth inning and propelled the Seattle Mariners to a 7-5 win on Friday.
But it was the toil of reliever Charlie Furbush a half inning earlier that made Miller's highlight possible. When Furbush jogged in from the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Royals had loaded the bases against Danny Farquhar with only one out. Furbush answered the call by getting Mike Moustakas to pop out to second and Alcides Escobar to strike out.
That allowed Miller to lead off the ninth inning with a solo homer off Holland, one of the game's best closers. Miller's homer was only the second given up my Holland this season, and Holland hadn't given up a home run since May 5. It was also the first run he's allowed since May 5.
Logan Morrison added another run with a single off Holland, giving Mariners closer Fernando Rodney a little wiggle room. Rodney put the tying run on base, but Rodney shut the door.
Furbush's pitching and Miller's homer also allowed the Mariners to make amends for letting a five-run lead slip away.
Endy Chavez opened the game by hustling to stretch what looked to be a single into a double. After James Jones successfully bunted Chavez to third, the Royals pulled the infield in with Robinson Cano at the plate.
Cano walked up to the plate to a chorus of boos from a sold-out crowd at Kauffman Stadium; Royals fans still remember how he didn't select Royal Billy Butler to be a part of the Home Run Derby when it was held in Kansas City two years ago. Cano answered the boos with a single through the hole between third and shortstop--the "5.5" hole made famous by Tony Gwynn--and gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
Mike Zunino tacked on another run with a solo homer, his eighth home run of the season. And then the Mariners looked to turn a lead into a rout in the fifth inning.
Cano drove in Jones with a double, and Logan Morrison drove in two more runs with his second home run of the season. That gave the Mariners a 5-0 lead, and it felt like more than enough for starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.
It was immediately after that surge that Iwakuma revealed that he is, indeed, human. He had looked nearly unhittable through four innings.
He struck out the side in the first inning. He didn't allow a runner to reach second through four innings. He was efficient with his pitches and looked like he would last deep into the game.
But Iwakuma cracked in the fifth inning. He struck out Alex Gordon to start the inning before the barrage followed: a solo home run by Salvador Perez, a double by Lorenzo Cain and a two-run home run by Moustakas.
He had allowed only three Royals runners to reach second in his previous 20 innings against Kansas City; he allowed four to do so in the fifth.
Iwakuma gave up back-to-back singles to start the sixth, and suddenly Iwakuma's night was over. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon elected to bring in reliever Dominic Leone.
Leone gave up an RBI single to Perez, then allowed another run when Cain drove in a run by grounding into a fielder's choice. That tied the score at five, and all five runs belonged to Iwakuma.
The Royals nearly tacked on another run in the sixth when Escobar's blooper looked headed for an opening in right field. But Morrison, the Mariners first baseman, caught the ball over his head, saving a run and preserving the tie.
Iwakuma's final line of the night wasn't pretty, and it betrayed how well he pitched to start the game: five innings, five runs, nine hits and two home runs. He also struck out five.
The Royals had a golden opportunity in the eighth inning.
Butler singled off Farquhar to start the eighth inning, and Gordon followed with a single. Perez then advanced Butler to third and Gordon to second with a sacrifice fly.
McClendon countered by intentionally walking Cain, summoning lefty Furbush to face Moustakas and bringing in his infield.
Furbush got Moustakas to pop out to Cano and struck out Escobar to leave the bases loaded and set up Miller's home run.
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