Sustained traction remains elusive for the Mariners, who closed out their weekend Sunday at Kansas City in the same manner they concluded their previous series at Texas.
With an opportunity lost.
The Mariners held on for an 8-7 victory over the Royals in the first game of a rare doubleheader but missed the chance for a sweep when Kansas City battered Erasmo Ramirez and Cody Martin for a 9-1 victory in the second game.
"An emotional game in the first game," manager Scott Servais said. "We hung on. Guys were fired up. You have to carry (that) into the second game. We just didn’t get enough going early on. Then they put some good swings on Ramirez."
Three homers worth of good swings.
Sunday’s split also meant the Mariners settled for a split in a four-game series that marks the middle stop in a three-city trip. They won their first two games last week at Texas before letting a chance for a sweep slip away in the finale.
This is a "glass half-empty" analysis, of course.
The Mariners won the series at Texas and gained a split in Kansas City. They are 4-3 on a trip that concludes with games Tuesday and Wednesday at Oakland. They are 14-9 since the All-Star break.
The arrow is, for the most part, pointing up.
"Coming in here and winning two out of the four," Servais said, "it’s OK. You’d like to win three, certainly after the first win (in the doubleheader). But we’ll take it. An off-day (Monday), and then we need to get after it over in Oakland."
Calling it "OK" is a fair summation.
The Mariners, at 57-56, remain 1 1/2 games behind Kansas City (57-53) for the final spot in the American League’s wild-card race. Tampa Bay (58-55) is one-half game behind the Royals.
Baltimore (55-56), Los Angeles (55-57), Minnesota (53-56), Texas (53-58) and Toronto (52-59) are all within 5 1/2 games of the final spot with eight weeks remaining in the season.
A split actually is OK, but had the Mariners completed the sweep Sunday, they would have jumped past the Royals and been tied with the Rays for the final wild-card spot. That’s a lost opportunity.
Three takeaways from Sunday's split in a doubleheader:
***ROTATION ISSUES: It wasn’t a great day for the Mariners’ two recent deals to bolster their rotation.
Lefty Marco Gonzales, given a seven-run lead in the opener, didn’t make it through the fifth inning. Ramirez then gave up five runs in five-plus innings in the second game.
In some ways, the Mariners were lucky to gain a split.
With Felix Hernandez now on the disabled list because of biceps tendinitis, the Mariners’ rotation is loaded with questions once it gets past lefty James Paxton. General manager Jerry Dipoto appears to have more dealing to do.
***A NEW LOOK: The Mariners will have a new look Tuesday in Oakland when first baseman Yonder Alonso joins the club after Sunday’s trade brought him from the Athletics for outfielder Boog Powell.
It will be interesting to see how Alonso fits since the Mariners have been pretty happy with Danny Valencia as their full-time first baseman. The club will need to make a corresponding space-clearing move to add Alonso.
The Mariners’ bullpen mix could also change, depending on the severity of David Phelps’ elbow injury. He left Sunday’s opener after facing one batter.
"He’ll probably fly back (to Seattle) and get it looked at," Servais said. "I don’t know if it’s a DL (situation). We’ll know more at some point (Monday)."
The Mariners picked up right-handed reliever Ryan Garton in a trade Sunday with Tampa Bay. They got him and catcher Mike Marjama in a deal with pitcher Anthony Misiewicz, infielder Luis Rengifo and a player to be named later.
Garton and Marjama were assigned to Triple-A Tacoma, but Marjama could also be in line for a quick recall since he was an International League all-star at Triple-A Durham. Mike Zunino is batting .160 in his last 26 games.
***A FUNNY GAME: Figure this out. The Mariners jumped all over lefty Danny Duffy, who has the best stuff in the Royals’ rotation, for seven runs over the first two innings in the opener.
But the Mariners had no answer in the second game for right-hander Jake Junis, whom the Royals promoted prior to the game from Triple-A Omaha to serve as their 26th player in the doubleheader.
Junis retired the final 19 batters he faced in limiting the Mariners to one run and four hits in eight innings. He was optioned back to Omaha after the game.
"We needed to get on him early," Servais said. "We had some chances in the first inning, and then broke through for one in the second."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners