What awaits the Mariners on Friday is exactly what the Cactus League schedule summoned up Thursday for Kansas City — playing a split-squad doubleheader with several key players still away on duty in the World Baseball Classic.
The Mariners took advantage by sprinting to a big early lead, thanks to three Royals errors, before coasting their way to a 9-2 victory at Surprise Stadium.
Chase De Jong worked four strong innings before three relievers closed out the victory with five shutout innings. Outfielder Boog Powell served as the designated hitter and went 3-for-4 in leading a 13-hit attack.
De Jong gave up two runs, one earned, in four innings.
"A really good outing," manager Scott Servais said. "It’s good to see him settle in. He’s starting to get more comfortable and used to putting a Mariners jersey on."
Kansas City’s other split squad clobbered San Diego 13-3 in Peoria.
The Mariners split their squad Friday for games against Arizona in Scottsdale and the Los Angeles Dodgers in Glendale.
On Thursday, the Mariners (12-8) scored once in the first inning against ex-pat Jason Vargas after Jarrod Dyson opened the game by reaching on an error by second baseman Raul Mondesi.
Dyson went to third on Taylor Motter’s bloop single to right and scored on Mitch Haniger’s grounder to third.
Kansas City countered with another tainted run later in the inning. Mondesi led off with a bunt single and reached second when De Jong threw wildly to first. Two ground outs produced the tying run.
Another Mondesi error helped the Mariners score three runs in the second inning after Powell led off with a single and went to third on Tuffy Gosewisch’s double.
After a walk to Mike Freeman loaded the bases, Mondesi booted a potential double-play grounder.
The Mariners added single runs in third inning against Yender Caramo and in the fourth against Joakim Soria, sandwiched around Drew Butera homer in the third against De Jong.
Powell’s third hit, a two-run double in a three-run sixth inning, extended the lead to 9-2.
"An unbelievable spring he’s had," Servais said. "The quality of his at-bats, he’s been very consistent. Handling all of the pitches and using the whole field to hit. He’s certainly gotten stronger than he was last year."
PLAY(S) OF THE GAME: De Jong concluded his four innings by grabbing a Ramon Torres’ screaming liner back through the box. De Jong barely had to move his head and his glove.
"You guys want to talk to me about how I almost died?" De Jong asked reporters at the start of his post-game interview. "That was definitely the hottest one that’s every come back at me.
"I saw him swing. I saw ball hit barrel. After that, it was just move my head out of the way. Then I caught it. I felt it. Then I looked and it was still in my glove."
Cody Martin had a similar experience in knocking down Mike Moustakas’ leadoff liner in the sixth inning. Martin said he never saw the ball: "It knocked my glove off."
Martin calmly recovered the ball and threw to first for the out
PLUS: Lefty receiver Marc Rzepczynski worked a one-two-three inning on eight pitches in the fourth. That makes four straight scoreless one-inning appearances since giving up six runs in one inning in his spring debut…Powell went 3-for-4, which boosted his average to .577 (15-for-26)…Taylor Motter went 2-for-3 with a walk and raised his average to .321 (9-for-28).
MINUS: First baseman Dan Vogelbach was hitless in three at-bats and has just one hit in his last 15 at-bats…one of the two runs allowed by De Jong was unearned, but that doesn’t mean it was undeserved. It was his error in throwing wildly on a bunt.
STAT PACK: Martin pitched three scoreless innings and has not allowed a run this spring in 9 2/3 innings over four appearances.
SPRING BATTLES: Motter continues to strengthen his bid to win the utilityman job.
QUOTABLE: De Jong is a fly-ball pitcher but said he doesn’t often give up wall-scaper home runs. So he was surprised when Butera’s leadoff fly to left in the third inning cleared the wall.
"I didn’t think he got that, but…," De Jong said. "(Tyler) O’Neill was going back on it, and it was one step, then another step. It was like, `Oh, man, it ended up over the fence.’ Down here, the ball really carries."
SHORT HOPS: A leftover tidbit from Wednesday’s 12-7 loss to the Dodgers at Peoria Stadium. The Mariners had seven extra-base hits and stole four bases. They haven’t done that in a regular season since June 6, 2004 in a 5-4 walk-off victory over the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field. Jolbert Cabrera capped a three-run ninth inning by drawing a bases-loaded walk from Billy Koch.
UP NEXT: The Mariners play the second of their three split-squad doubleheaders Friday — and both games are on the road.
Right-hander Yovani Gallardo makes his first start since returning from the World Baseball Classic in a 1:10 p.m. game against Arizona at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
Andrew Moore, Evan Scribner and Dan Altavilla are also scheduled to pitch against the Diamondbacks, who will start right-hander Shelby Miller.
Lefty Ariel Miranda will start in a 7:05 p.m. game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale. Max Povse, Ryan Weber and Dean Kiekhefer are also slotted to pitch.
The Dodgers will start lefty Clayton Kershaw.
DAYS LEFT UNTIL OPENING DAY: 17
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners