Royals seek offense in clash with Mariners

The Kansas City Royals try to get the bats going this game set with the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

After getting blanked and nearly no-hit in the finale of their three-game set with the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, the Royals' bats were again silent in Thursday's opener with the Mariners, pushing just one run across in a 4-1 loss.

Ichiro Suzuki led the game off with a home run and Justin Smoak added a two- run shot later on for Seattle, which won for only the second time in its last eight games.

The homer by Suzuki gave him 5,000 career bases combined from his time in Japan (1,889) and in the majors. He's the 20th player to reach the feat, and that includes former Mariners Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, the current third baseman for the Yankees.

"You don't see that very often," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "A first pitch curveball hit out of the park for a home run, you just don't see it. You'll see first pitch fastballs or guys trying to get ahead and guys ambush, but I thought it was a pretty good curveball. It did kind of get down into Ichiro's swing path, but you just don't see that very often."

Suzuki, who had two hits and scored twice, has 163 hits this season. The Mariners have just 20 games remaining, and time is running out for Suzuki to get his 11th straight season with at least 200 hits. He's tied with Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons in a career.

Jason Vargas (8-13) allowed just four hits and a run over six innings to win for only the second time in his last 12 starts.

"The story was the way he used his fastball tonight," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He really stepped up for us."

Brandon League escaped a jam in the ninth for his 34th save.

Hochevar (10-11) was charged with six hits and four runs -- three earned -- with a season-high nine strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings.

Getting the call for the Mariners tonight will be righty Blake Beavan, who is 3-5 with a 4.33 ERA. Beavan lost his third straight decision on Sunday in Oakland, as he allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings.

Beavan has never faced the Royals, who will rely on veteran lefty Jeff Francis.

Francis has had a forgettable first year with the Royals, going 5-15 with a 4.72 ERA. Francis' latest loss came on Sunday against Cleveland, which reached him for four runs and nine hits in five innings.

He lost to the Mariners earlier in the year in his only other start against them.

Kansas City is 3-2 versus the Mariners this season. However, Seattle is 30-19 against the Royals at Safeco Field, which opened in 1999 -- its second-best winning percentage against an opponent there.