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KC@TOR: Mendoza fans nine through six innings of work

It hasn't been long since the Mariners and Royals last squared off. The two teams played a four-game series in Kansas City last week, and the Mariners would love a repeat in this weekend's four-game series at Safeco Field.

The Seattle bats dominated Royals pitching in the series at Kauffman Stadium, as the Mariners scored 31 runs on 50 hits in four games, three of which they won. The offensive barrage was intense, especially in the series' first two games. Neither Royals starter made it out of the second inning, and neither pitcher is still on the team.

The eye-popping numbers the Mariners posted in Kansas City should be taken with a grain of salt, though. Entering play Wednesday, no big league team had scored more runs away from its home ballpark than Seattle, with 258 road runs. At home, however, the Mariners are the worst run-producing team in the Majors, having mustered just 133 runs at Safeco.

The Royals have a similar story, boasting a much better record on the road (24-26) than at home (17-30).

In the series opener on Thursday, the Royals will start Luis Mendoza, whom the Mariners didn't face last week. Mendoza is on some kind of hot streak, having allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last four starts while posting a quality start in six of his last seven outings. His last time out, against the Twins, the right-hander allowed just three runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, earning his first win of July.

Switching between the rotation and the bullpen earlier in the year, Mendoza has been entrenched in Kansas City's rotation since June 12, making things easier for him.

"I can prepare more for each start and work harder," Mendoza said. "It gives me a chance to study the other teams more. And, of course, when I take the mound, I feel more secure with myself to make pitches."

Thursday's Mariners starter, Jason Vargas, did make an appearance against the Royals last week. He held them to three runs on seven hits, though the lefty did surrender two home runs. He enters Thursday having won three straight starts; he held the Rays to one run (none earned) over six-plus innings on Saturday.

"I feel like my last three or four, I've kind of been getting back into a better rhythm," Vargas said. "Last time, I think I had to battle a little more, but I think being able to keep that team down to one run with the stuff that I had was a confidence booster."

Royals: Cain swinging a hot bat
• Outfielder Lorenzo Cain has been on fire at the plate since returning from the disabled list following the All-Star break. Since July 13, he is hitting .350 with two home runs, three doubles, six runs scored and 11 RBIs.

Despite not picking up any hits on Wednesday, Cain reached base twice, being hit by a pitch twice.

• The Royals' No. 9 hitters are among baseball's best. Entering play on Wednesday, they ranked first in average, RBIs, hits and doubles. In the last 13 games, Kansas City's nine-hole hitters are batting .413 with 12 runs scored.

Mariners: Seager coming up clutch
• Kyle Seager drove in his 34th two-out run in Tuesday night's 4-2 win over the Yankees, and entering play on Wednesday, he was tied for the Major League lead in two-out RBIs with the Dodgers' Andre Ethier.

• The Mariners might miss the bat of Ichiro Suzuki in this series against the Royals. In his career, Ichiro is a .365 hitter against Kansas City with 20 doubles, 52 RBIs and 10 home runs. The Royals are one of just three teams, along with the Angels and Rangers, against which Suzuki has a double-digit home run total. He was 8-for-20 in last week's series. The outfielder was traded to the Yankees on Monday.

• Following a team loss this season, Vargas is 9-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 13 starts.

Worth noting
• Vargas has struggled in his career against Royals designated hitter Billy Butler, who is 5-for-11, including a double, two home runs and four RBIs.

• Mendoza has made four career appearances (one start) against Seattle, and the numbers aren't pretty. He's allowed 10 runs on 14 hits over nine innings.

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