The Kansas City Royals cooled off significantly at the plate during their visit to Baltimore.By doing so, they made the crowded AL wild-card race even tighter and helped the Seattle Mariners inch closer.
Kansas City (55-51) still holds the second wild-card spot and will attempt to stop its first three-game losing streak in nearly a month when it hosts Seattle (55-54) in the opener of a four-game series Thursday.
The Royals' skid is their longest since dropping five in a row from July 7-15. After the five losses, Kansas City won 11 of 14 games, scored 89 times, batted .307 and hit 22 homers.
Then came three games in Baltimore, where the Royals scored three times and totaled 15 hits in 27 innings.
Several of Kansas City's regulars cooled off during the losses to Baltimore. Lorenzo Cain was 1-for-7, Mike Moustakas was 1-for-9 and Salvador Perez was 1-for-12.
"We definitely didn't hit the ball well in this series," Moustakas said. "They pitched the ball great, and we just didn't have any offense going."
The only exception to the slump was Eric Hosmer, who is hitting .442 (15-for-34) during an eight-game hitting streak.
Cain did not play because of a lingering hamstring/leg injury but Wednesday seemed merely to be a routine night off, and he is expected to play Thursday. Before going 1-for-7 in Baltimore, Cain was 9-for-19 in his previous four games.
"If his legs feel great, then we'll go tomorrow," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "If they don't feel great, I'll give him another day. I'd rather give him two days than two weeks or a month."
Kansas City leads Tampa Bay by a halfgame in the wild-card race and holds a 1 1/2-game edge on Seattle, which saw a four-game winning streak stopped with a 5-1 loss at Texas on Wednesday.
Robinson Cano had two of the six hits for Seattle, which was 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position after coming back from a five-run deficit Tuesday.
The Mariners are back in the race by going 6-3 in their last nine games after dropping three of four to the New York Yankees. They scored 26 times in their previous four games before strugglingat the plate Wednesday.
"It's coming together for us," Seattle center fielder Jarrod Dyson said. "It was a rough start. But it ain't how you start; it's how you finish. I think the guys realize how close we are to being in a hunt. And we're taking a lot of pride in playing hard."
Dyson knows something about being in the hunt. He spent his first seven seasons with the Royals and appeared in 210 games during the Royals' back-to-back World Series seasons in 2014 and 2015.
"That's my first home, and I have a lot of great memories in that place," Dyson told reporters. "That's the only team I'd ever known, so it'll be nice to get back there and see all the fans and my old teammates. Mostly the fans because I didn't get to see them (when he left).
"It's going to be fun. It's going to be nice. I'm going to enjoy it. But at the same time, we're going over there to take care of business."
Dyson was a part-time player with the Royals but is Seattle's full-time center fielder and leads the team with 24 stolen bases.
The pitching matchup features veteran right-handers as Trevor Cahill starts for Kansas City against Yovani Gallardo.
Cahill will be making his home debut for the Royals and second start since being acquired from the San Diego Padres on July 24. He made his debut with Kansas City last Saturday in a 10-inning loss at Boston. He allowed five runs and eight hits in four innings.
Cahill owns an 11.74 ERA in his last two starts after posting a 3.69 ERA in his first 10.
He is 5-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 12 career starts against Seattle.Seattle's roster owns a .329 average against him. Nelson Cruz is 4-for-23 and Cano is 7-for-14.
Gallardo is making his 17th start and third since June 17. He went 1-0 with an 0.79 ERA in four relief appearances but returned to the rotation July 23 against the Yankees and then allowed one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings against the New York Mets on Saturday.
Gallardo struck out three and allowed a run in a three-inning relief appearance against the Royals during a 7-3 loss on July 4. He is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA in five appearances (four starts) against Kansas City.