Will Smith turned in a stellar effort out of the bullpen, while his Kansas City teammates continued Felix Hernandez's recent rough stretch in the Royals' 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium.
Replacing a laboring Danny Duffy with two outs in the fourth inning, Smith (2-1) struck out a career-best eight and yielded just one hit over 4 1/3 scoreless frames to lead the Royals to a seventh win in nine games.
"He pitched backwards, he mixed his breaking balls up, and he was able to throw a curveball and a slider pretty effectively," Mariners catcher Mike Zunino said of Smith. "He did a great job today."
Greg Holland finished things off with a scoreless ninth for the All-Star closer's 30th straight successful save opportunity.
Mike Moustakas aided Kansas City's cause with an RBI single off Hernandez (12-9), who lost a fourth consecutive start after being reached for three runs in a 6 2/3-inning stint cut short by a sore back.
Kyle Seager accounted for three of Seattle's seven hits in the setback, with Brad Miller going 2-for-5 and driving in the club's lone run with a triple. The Mariners left 10 men on base and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Hernandez was dominant early on, striking out the side in the bottom of the first inning and retiring 10 of the first 11 Kansas City hitters until Eric Hosmer singled with one out in the bottom of the fourth and the Royals down 1-0. Billy Butler and Moustakas followed with base hits, with the latter plating Hosmer with the tying run.
Kansas City got to Hernandez again in the fifth, with singles by Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar placing men on the corners before the Seattle ace uncorked a wild pitch to permit the go-ahead tally. Escobar, who had stolen second earlier, also advanced a base and later scored on an Emilio Bonifacio sacrifice fly for a 3-1 lead.
Seattle stranded two runners against Duffy in each of the first three innings, but finally broke through against the lefty when Abraham Almonte doubled in front of Miller's long drive to right that the rookie legged out for a triple to bring in the game's initial run.
Duffy then issued his fourth walk of the day and was promptly removed in favor of Smith, who struck out Seager to end the inning and shut the Mariners down for the next four as well.
"I just didn't have it like I wanted it today," said Duffy. "I threw a lot of balls up. I'm pretty happy with the way I battled, keeping them to one run."
Seager was the only Seattle hitter to reach base against Smith, doing so with a two-out double in the seventh.
Hernandez had dropped four straight starts only one time previously, from April 27-May 13, 2008. The former AL Cy Young winner struck out six to notch his fifth consecutive season with 200 K's or more, matching Randy Johnson's club record from 1991-95 ... Smith's prior career high for strikeouts was seven, set during a seven-inning start at Minnesota on Sept. 11 of last season ... Almonte's double snapped a string of 22 straight innings for the Mariners without an extra-base hit ... Seattle activated rookie catcher Mike Zunino, sidelined since July 25 with a fractured left hand, from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game. He went 0-for-3 with a walk ... Kansas City's Alex Gordon had an eight-game hit streak halted after finishing 0-for-3.