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AP - Sports

The Kansas City Royals are still clinging to hopes of a wild-card playoff berth, using stingy pitching to keep them in the race.

Their offense could be in for the bigger challenge when they encounter a rookie hurler coming off an impressive major league debut.

Kansas City digs in against Taijuan Walker and the visiting Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night.

The Royals (72-66) kept pace in the AL wild-card hunt on Tuesday with a 4-3 home victory over Seattle (62-76), their eighth in 10 games. Salvador Perez was 3 for 4 with his 10th homer and drove in Mike Moustakas with a two-out single in the eighth for the go-ahead run.

Perhaps even more impressive than the piece of clutch hitting was the continued run of excellent pitching by Kansas City. While Tuesday's performance wasn't dominant - five pitchers combined to limit the Mariners to 10 hits - the staff owns a collective 1.25 ERA during a 7-2 stretch.

The Royals' 72 wins match their total from last season, with 24 games to play.

"There's no sitting back and patting your back at 72 wins right now," manager Ned Yost said. "We want to continue pushing, continue playing with confidence the way we are right now, keep winning a bunch more games."

Yost will give the ball to Ervin Santana (8-8, 3.19 ERA), who has plenty of experience versus Seattle from his eight seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, going 12-7 with a 3.94 ERA over 29 starts.

However, Santana is 0-2 with a 4.30 ERA over his last five starts overall and hasn't won since Aug. 4. A sixth straight start without a victory would match a season-long skid.

His teammates could be in for a tough time at the plate if the debut of Walker (1-0, 0.00) was any indication. The right-hander limited Houston to an unearned run and two hits over five innings of a 7-1 road win on Friday in front of about 40 family members and friends. Regarded as one of baseball's top prospects, Walker retired the first eight batters he faced.

"He was more and more comfortable as the game wore on and let the ball go a few times," manager Eric Wedge said of the 2010 first-round pick. "I thought he did a nice job with the secondary stuff, with the breaking ball, with some changeups. He was downhill with the fastball. I thought he was very impressive out there."

Raul Ibanez was 2 for 4 for Seattle on Tuesday after sitting out the club's previous two games, but that did little to spark its scuffling offense. The Mariners were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and are 12 for 73 (.164) while losing nine of 12 games.

Perhaps Justin Smoak - 2 for 4 Tuesday after collecting one hit in his previous 10 games - can help lift Seattle. He's 7 for 18 off Santana with two doubles and a homer, though Mariners batting average leader Kyle Seager, who homered Tuesday, is just 3 for 19 against him.

Carlos Pena played first base for Kansas City in the ninth inning after having his contract purchased from Triple-A Omaha earlier in the day. The Royals signed him to a minor league deal last month after he was released by Houston in late July following a career-low .350 slugging percentage in 85 games.

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