Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera walks back to the mound after throwing a 100-mph fastball against the Seattle Mariners in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, June 22, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson
June 23, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) Joe Blanton retired from baseball last season after he was unable to make it in the minor leagues. Now, he's shining for the first-place Kansas City Royals.

Blanton pitched six-plus innings of two-hit ball to lead Kansas City to a 4-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.

''Being able to get back was kind of almost the pinnacle and now I'm just riding it out and enjoying it,'' said Blanton, who struck out seven. ''Probably more than I enjoyed it before because I definitely appreciate it more and know how hard it is and what it takes.''

Blanton (2-0) lowered his ERA this season to 1.73 after allowing one run. The 34-year-old, who stepped away from the game after being released by the Oakland Athletics in 2014 following two subpar outings with Triple-A Sacramento, was recalled to the big leagues on May 16.

The right-hander made seven appearances out of the bullpen before making his first start in the majors since 2013 on June 17. He has allowed only one run in both of his starts and has yet to allow a walk after issuing none to Seattle on Monday.

''I don't ever not sense him finding a rhythm,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said. ''We brought him in (relief) one game to get an inning in and it was like a 32-pitch inning, but every other time out there, he's been able to execute almost flawlessly, his pitches.''

The Mariners took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a home run by Robinson Cano. Blanton retired the next 16 batters before Austin Jackson doubled to lead off the seventh.

Kelvin Herrera replaced Blanton and promptly moved Jackson to third with a wild pitch, but retired the next three batters to escape the jam.

Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland all pitched one inning of hitless relief. Holland earned his 14th save in 15 opportunities.

Felix Hernandez (10-4) took the loss after allowing four runs, nine hits and a walk in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out five.

''I thought he had good stuff,'' Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. ''You look at their numbers, they don't walk, they don't strike out. They just pester you.''

Alex Rios tied the game at 1 with a run-scoring single in the second. Rios advanced to second on the throw to the plate and Omar Infante followed with a double off the wall in right to score Rios.

Mike Moustakas doubled in the third to drive in Alcides Escobar and give the Royals a 3-1 lead.

Escobar, who had a three-hit night, drove in Jarrod Dyson with a single in the seventh. Dyson singled and stole second with two outs to get into scoring position.

UP NEXT

Mariners: Rookie LHP Mike Montgomery takes the mound against the Royals, the team that drafted him 36th overall in the 2008 draft.

Royals: RHP Jeremy Guthrie attempts to solve a Mariners team that has proved to be trouble for the veteran in his career. He is 2-7 with a 5.40 ERA lifetime against Seattle.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: LHP James Paxton still is not cleared to begin throwing, McClendon said. Paxton is dealing with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand.

Royals: Danny Duffy is still scheduled to come off the DL on Wednesday and start the series finale at Seattle. Duffy, who has been recovering from an inflamed left shoulder, takes Yordano Ventura's spot in the rotation. Ventura went on the DL with irritation in the ulnar nerve of his right elbow.

CRUZ INJURED

Seattle right fielder Nelson Cruz left the game in the seventh inning after popping his pelvic bone out of place. The Mariners initially called the injury a tight right hamstring.

''They got it popped back in and he is OK now, we'll see how he feels tomorrow,'' said McClendon, who didn't think it would be a long-term injury.

MARINERS OFFENSE TAMED

The Mariners had two hits in a game for the fourth time this season, and third time in less than two weeks. Seattle struck out 13 times, the 10th time they have whiffed at least that many times.

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