Royals-Mariners Preview

The Associated Press

Coming off a successful road trip, the Seattle Mariners return to Safeco Field looking to continue their home success over the Kansas City Royals.

Hisashi Iwakuma will try to help the Mariners do so in his first home start of 2014 on Thursday night.

Though Seattle's five-game winning streak ended with a 2-0 loss at Oakland in the finale of a doubleheader Wednesday, it went 7-2 on a trip that began with two straight victories at Yankee Stadium. The Mariners (17-16) have won 10 of 13 following an eight-game skid.

"Just an unbelievable trip in my opinion," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "Just phenomenal. I was very proud of the team and how they played. We put ourselves in a pretty good position."

Seattle has won two straight and six of seven at home versus Kansas City, which was shut out in its last two there in 2013.

The Royals (16-17) have not been blanked by the same opponent in three consecutive games since Minnesota did it at the Metrodome from July 5-7, 2004. The Mariners last completed a three-shutout home stretch of the same team against the Los Angeles Dodgers, spanning the 2000 and 2012 seasons.

Iwakuma (1-0, 5.40 ERA) allowed four hits and struck out nine in eight innings in a 6-0 home victory in his only previous appearance versus Kansas City on Sept 25.

The right-hander gave up four runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 9-8 win at Houston on Saturday in his first outing since opening the season on the disabled list with a sprained finger.

"I know he's still ironing out some stuff, but I thought his breaking ball and split were great," catcher Mike Zunino told the Mariners' official website. "Just a couple things with the location of his sinker, but other than that he was pretty impressive for his first time out."

Kansas City's Eric Hosmer is 1 for 3 versus Iwakuma, and batting .333 in his last nine games against the Mariners.

He went 7 for 15 with his first homer of the season and seven RBIs as the Royals took the final two in San Diego following a five-game skid.

"The power numbers will come," Hosmer said after recording four RBIs in Wednesday's 8-0 victory. "I'm not worried about that. It's early in the season and right now I'm just doing anything to help this team win."

Danny Duffy (1-2, 2.19) makes his second straight start Thursday in place of the injured Bruce Chen. Duffy allowed a run, two hits and walked four over four innings of a 9-2 loss to Detroit on Saturday.

With an off-day Monday, the left-hander could move back to the bullpen after this start, but could return to the rotation if Chen is not ready next weekend. Duffy, who made his first six appearances in relief, is 8-11 with a 4.69 ERA in 32 career starts.

"I'll go wherever they want me to go," he told the Royals' official website. "I'm just happy to be on the team."

Duffy gave up five hits and four walks in 3 2-3 innings, but one run during a 3-1 win in his only previous start versus Seattle on Sept. 2.

Robinson Cano is 3 for 6 with a homer against Duffy, and is batting .382 (13 for 34) in his last nine home games after going 0 for 7 in his first two.

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