Mariners hope to stay hot vs. Royals

( - Few teams have been better of late than the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners try to continue an impressive run on Friday when they play the second of a four-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Safeco Field.

After a 7-2 road trip Seattle returned home on Thursday and kept winning, as Hisashi Iwakuma tossed eight scoreless innings in the Mariners' 1-0 win.

Iwakuma (2-0) won his second straight start after allowing just four hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. Fernando Rodney spun a scoreless ninth for his 10th save of the season.

Seattle made the most of its opportunities after producing just two hits. Corey Hart drove in the game's lone run and Mike Zunino's double accounted for the team's only other hit.

"It was frustrating to hit inside because we kept putting some good at-bats together with not a lot to show for it," said Hart. "When your starter throws like he did, you don't have to do a whole lot."

The Mariners have won six of their last seven games and nine of the last 11.

Kansas City's offense didn't fare any better. Eric Hosmer supplied two of the Royals' four hits.

Danny Duffy (1-3) was tagged with the loss after allowing just one run on two hits with three walks and four strikeouts across six-plus innings for the Royals, who have lost six of their last eight.

Getting the call for the Mariners on Friday will be righty Brandon Maurer, who is 1-0 with a 6.92 ERA. Maurer beat the Houston Astros on Sunday, despite a shaky outing that saw him surrender four runs and six hits in five innings.

"I want to see him fight through the seventh inning now," Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He did take a big step forward and hopefully he'll take another step."

Maurer has faced the Royals twice (1 start) and has pitched to a 4.32 ERA without recording a decision.

Kansas City, meanwhile, will counter with former Mariners hurler Jason Vargas, who is coming off an awful showing his last time out. Vargas was hit hard by the Detroit Tigers on Sunday to the tune of seven runs in five innings, dropping him to 2-1 on the year, while raising his ERA to 3.50.

Now he returns to Seattle, the city he called home from 2009-12.

"The team's obviously a lot different even though it's only been a year, but that's how it is," he said. "I still talk to some of the guys and I saw them this spring. I have some really good friends over there."

He has a 22-21 record and a 3.33 ERA lifetime at Safeco and is 2-1 in three starts versus the Mariners with a 2.11 ERA.

Kansas City won four of its seven matchups with the Mariners last season, but was 1-2 in the Emerald City.