Duffy-Hernandez matchup highlights Royals-Mariners Game 3

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners are battling for postseason play -- each in their own way.

The Mariners would like to sneak in as a wild-card team, but overtaking the Houston Astros for the American League West title seems impractical. The Astros own a 15-game lead.

The Royals still have practical aspirations of overtaking AL Central leader Cleveland. The Royals are 3 1/2 games behind the Indians.

The Royals, however, occupy the second wild-card spot,a game behind theNew York Yankees. Tampa Bay is a half-game back. All three lost Friday.

The Mariners are lurking just 1 1/2 games in arrears of the second wild-card spot. The Royals and Mariners meet again Saturday night in the third game of a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium. Seattle beat the Royals 5-2 on Friday night.

"It's what you want to be at this time of the season," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "You want to be competitive. You want to be up there in the standings.

"Both teams are right at that point. We're getting close to the end of the season, a couple of months left. They are going to be big games. I know we've got some key games coming up on this homestand."

The Mariners will start right-hander Felix Hernandez on Saturday.

"He's always tough," Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. "He's one of the best in the game. It's never an easy outing when you face him. He's going to bring his A-game every time out. Hopefully, we get to him early and continue to score runs."

Hernandez is 3-2 with a 4.02 ERA in eight starts since coming off the disabled list. He is 5-4 with a 4.28 ERA for the season. This will be his 15th career start against the Royals. The six-time All-Star holds a 5-6 record with a 3.05 ERA against Kansas City.

Melky Cabrera is 11-for-28 (.393) with a home run off Hernandez, while Hosmer is 7-for-17(.412) and Alex Gordon is 4-for-27 (.148).

The Royals will counter with left-hander Danny Duffy, who is matching up for the second time this year against Hernandez. Duffy won 7-3 on July 4 at Safeco Field. He is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in seven career outings against Seattle.

Both teams are monitoring the health of two of their stars. Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who has 22 home runs and 80 RBIs, was a late scratch with neck, back and shoulder spasms.

"We'll see how he is (Saturday)," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He's still pretty tightened up. Obviously, when he's not in our lineup, it's a different-looking lineup. We miss him greatly."

Cruz said he had a similar injury a few years ago while in Cleveland.

"Like a huge bump in my back. I think this is in a different spot. Close to my lat," Cruz said. "Hopefully, I wake up and it's good. They worked a lot and hopefully that works, pays off tomorrow."

Salvador Perez, the Royals' All-Star starting catcher, did not come out in the seventh inning after feeling discomfort in his right side on a sixth-inning swing. He was taken for an MRI. Perez has felt pain in his side the past few weeks, causing him to leave games early.

"It's the right side, but it's a different spot, so it's a little more concerning," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We'll know tomorrow."