Last-place clash as Royals meet Mariners

Field Level Media

June 17, 2019 at 6:45 am.

It is a storyline even Crash Davis would be proud of.

With Edwin Encarnacion traded to the New York Yankees on Saturday night, the Seattle Mariners had an empty spot on their 25-man major league roster.

Instead of calling up one of their young prospects, the Mariners instead rewarded journeyman catcher/infielder Austin Nola, who was batting .327 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs at Triple-A Tacoma.

“He has made some major swing adjustments and got some good results,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, whose team returns home to face the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.

The 29-year-old Nola, who spent eight years and 773 games in the minors, was penciled into the starting lineup at first base Sunday at Oakland.

With his dad, A.J., in attendance on Father’s Day, Nola singled in his first major league at-bat in the Mariners’ 6-3 victory.

“Phenomenal,” Austin Nola said, according to mlb.com. “No, it doesn’t get any better. I can’t wait to see my father after and give him a hug.”

Nola’s younger brother, Aaron, an All-Star pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies, got word of Austin’s call up in a text message from their mother.

“Oh, man. It’s one of the better days that I’ve had, and probably one of the better days that my parents have had, too,” Aaron Nola told mlb.com in Atlanta, where the Phillies were playing. “A good present for my dad on Father’s Day.”

The Mariners capped a 5-4 trip with a victory and return home to face the Royals and then Baltimore Orioles, fellow cellar dwellers in the American League.

Left-hander Tommy Milone (1-1, 3.42 ERA) is scheduled to be the primary pitcher for the Mariners in the opener against Royals left-hander Danny Duffy (3-3, 4.38). The Mariners have used an opener in Milone’s past two starts but haven’t indicated whether that will be the case Monday.

Both Milone and Duffy are coming off no-decisions and both have pitched well against their opponents on Monday.

Milone went six innings in his last appearance, a 4-3 Mariners victory at Minnesota on Wednesday. He allowed three runs on four hits, with no walks and six strikeouts. He’s 5-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 13 appearances (12 starts) against the Royals.

Duffy also pitched Wednesday, putting together arguably his best game of the season. In a 3-2 loss at home against Detroit, Duffy went seven innings, giving up two runs on four hits. He walked two — the first two batters of the game — and struck out a season-high seven.

“I just didn’t feel I could put the ball where I wanted to those first two hitters,” Duffy said, according to mlb.com. “After that, I dug around the mound a little and my landing spot was a little better. I felt pretty good. I think I threw 12 balls that first inning and nine the rest of the way. I figured it out pretty well.”

Duffy, who is 1-2 with a 2.54 ERA in nine career appearances against Seattle, including seven starts, said the key to his last outing was his changeup.

“I haven’t had it in a long time, but we’ve been working in the bullpen for a long time on it,” Duffy said. “Kudos to Cal (pitching coach Eldred) for sticking it out with me to instill the confidence in me.”

The Royals beat visiting Minnesota 8-6 Sunday as catcher Martin Maldonado went 3 for 4 with a double and two RBIs.

— Field Level Media