Luis Castillo stars as Mariners beat Royals 3-2 to grab sole possession of AL West lead

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SEATTLE (AP) — Luis Castillo pitched seven shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners grabbed sole possession of first place in the AL West, beating the Kansas City Royals 3-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Teoscar Hernández and Julio Rodríguez homered as Seattle won for the 11th time in 12 games. The Mariners also improved to a major league-best 36-14 since July 1 for their best 50-game stretch since they also went 36-14 from April 23-June 18, 2003.

Seattle (74-56) and Texas were tied for the AL West lead coming into the day, but the Rangers lost 7-6 to the Twins. Seattle trailed Texas by 7 1/2 games on Aug. 15.

It’s the latest the Mariners have had sole possession of first in a season since Aug. 24, 2003.

“We have a lot of baseball to go,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “There’s no question about it. But we have played extremely well, really since the first of July. And it’s a testament to our players. They just keep their head down and focus on getting better.”

Castillo (11-7) allowed one hit, struck out six and walked one in his fourth consecutive win. The All-Star right-hander retired his last 13 batters.

“It’s been awesome to watch him go out and do it every fifth day,” Servais said. “And today he was as sharp as he’s been in quite some time. When your starting pitching is that consistent, you’re gonna be in a lot of games.”

Hernández put Seattle in front with his third homer in the past two games, hitting a 433-foot solo shot to center off rookie Alec Marsh (0-7) in the second inning. It was his 22nd homer of the season.

Rodríguez also went deep for the second straight day, lining a two-run shot to left-center in the fifth to make it 3-0. It was his 23rd of the season.

Kansas City’s Nelson Velázquez cut it to 3-2 with a two-run homer off Gabe Speier in the eighth. It was Velázquez’s eighth homer.

The Royals put runners on second and third with two outs in the inning, but Justin Topa struck out Salvador Perez to preserve the one-run lead. Andrés Muñoz struck out the side in the ninth for his 10th save.

“You can feel the positivity and the good vibes here,” Castillo said. “It’s a team that just wants to go out there and win.”

Marsh allowed three runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out nine in his seventh career start.

Kansas City lost for the 10th time in 12 games. Nine of its past 10 losses are by two runs or fewer.

“Super frustrating series,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “Really a frustrating road trip. Played better than what the results ended up.”

LAYING OUT

Seattle right fielder Dominic Canzone made a full-extension diving catch on a slicing line drive by Maikel Garcia in the sixth.

PITCH MAGNET

Seattle’s Ty France was hit by a pitch for a franchise-record 28th time this season when Marsh plunked him with a slider in the second. France also held the previous mark, with 27 hit by pitches in 2021.

UP NEXT

Royals: RHP Zack Greinke (1-12, 5.34 ERA) faces Pittsburgh RHP Johan Oviedo (7-13, 4.46 ERA) on Monday to open a three-game series at home.

Mariners: Rookie RHP Bryan Woo (1-3, 4.58 ERA) starts against Oakland on Monday to begin a three-game set at home. The A’s have not announced a starter.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb