The assignment Wednesday for Ariel Miranda is the same as it was the last time he started. Pull the Mariners out of a spin.
Miranda ended a four-game losing streak last Friday when he pitched seven shutout innings in a 10-0 victory over the Angels in Anaheim. This time, he looks to prevent the Mariners from suffering a three-game sweep against Kansas City.
This one looms as a bigger challenge.
The Royals are starting All-Star lefty Jason Vargas, the one-time Mariner who resurrected his career this season after missing much of the last two years while recovering from reconstructive-elbow surgery.
Vargas is 12-3 with a league-leading 2.22 ERA and a candidate to start for the American League next week in the All-Star Game in Miami. He was 36-42 with a 4.09 ERA for the Mariners from 2009-12.
Miranda has been the Mariners’ most reliable starter for a rotation that continues to work through a series of injuries. He is 7-4 with a 3.82 ERA and leads the club in starts and innings.
"The thing that goes unnoticed with him," manager Scott Servais said, "is he’s a really good competitor. Just because he’s not fluent in the language; conversing with him isn’t that easy.
"Then you watch him through the course of the game, his ability to compete, even on nights when he doesn’t have it, his ability to grind through it when he doesn’t have it goes back to the type of competitor he is."
Miranda was ticketed to start the season at Triple-A Tacoma before a late March injury to Drew Smyly opened a spot in the big-league rotation. Miranda seized the opportunity and, at this point, looms as a fixture for the foreseeable future.
"There was a time when that third time through (the lineup) was a little bit of a challenge," Servais said, "but he seems to have gotten over it. I like that. It does so much for your team when you’ve got a guy who can go seven innings."
***Vargas is 3-2 with a 1.70 ERA in five career starts against the Mariners, but he hasn’t faced them since 2014. Miranda has never faced Kansas City.
***Nelson Cruz, who hasn’t hit a homer since June 4, is 10-for-31 with four homers in his career against Vargas. Robinson Cano is 10-for-27, but Kyle Seager is just 3-for-14, and Danny Valencia is 3-for-13.
***The Mariners don’t have an extra-base hit in their two losses to the Royals. The last time they went back-to-back games without an extra-base hit was Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 2013.
***Ben Gamel leads the American League in batting average at .332 even though he is one plate appearance shy of qualifying for the leaders. If an 0-for-1 is adding to his totals, he still holds a slight lead over Houston’s Jose Altuve.
***Jean Segura is batting .342 and has four hits in two of his last three games. But he is 12 plate appearances shy of qualification, and an 0-for-12 drops his average to .325.
***The Royals are 17-6 over their last 23 games.
***Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer has an 11-game hitting streak and is batting .395 (17-for-43) in that span.
***The Mariners are the only American League club with two players who have 60 RBIs. Cruz has 61, and Cano has 60. The only other AL players with at least 60 are New York outfielder Aaron Judge with 63, and Minnesota third baseman Miguel Sano with 60.
It was three years ago Wednesday — July 5, 2014 — that Brad Miller’s RBI double in the 14th inning lifted the Mariners to a 3-2 victory over the White Sox in Chicago.
It marked the first time since Sept. 25, 1992 that the Mariners won a road game lasting at least 14 innings. On that occasion, Omar Vizquel’s RBI single produced the winning run in a 4-3 victory at Texas in 16 innings.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners