The Royals aren't used to playing meaningful baseball in September, but they sure seem to know what they're doing. Kansas City -- which hasn't made a playoff appearance since winning the World Series in 1985 -- has won seven of its last nine games, including Monday's 3-1 victory over the Mariners.
With the top ERA in the American League (3.43), the Royals could make some noise in the American League Wild Card race.
"It's a lot more exciting," manager Ned Yost said. "If you're not in it, you're still trying to go out and win baseball games, but not every pitch matters. September baseball is exciting. It's rewarding when you play well, there's a lot to it."
The Royals already passed their toughest test of the series against Seattle, beating Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, 3-1, on Labor Day. They'll face rookie Erasmo Ramirez on Tuesday, and counter with Bruce Chen, who is making his 10th start of the season.
Chen began the season in the bullpen, going 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA. That success has carried over into his role in the rotation, where he's gone 3-2 with a 3.04 ERA since becoming a full-time starter. He's excelled against the Mariners in his career, going 4-1 with a 3.23 ERA over 13 appearances (nine starts).
Ramirez hopes that his recent hot streak will stall Kansas City's momentum. Over his last three starts, the rookie is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA over 19 1/3 innings. In that span, he has struck out 14 batters while allowing just 16 hits.
Mariners: Zunino wants to finish strong
Rookie catcher Mike Zunino went 0-for-3 in his return to Seattle's lineup. It was the 23-year-old's first appearance since breaking his hamate bone and missing 34 games.
"I'm really excited for this last month," Zunino said before Monday's game. "I'm focused on what I want to get done. Hopefully, I can continue to swing the bat well, catch the staff and go from there."
Before his injury, Zunino was on a hot streak, hitting .324 with six RBIs in his final 11 games.
Royals: Cain could return at any time
The Royals could regain the services of outfielder Lorenzo Cain any day now as he recovers from the oblique strain that sent him to the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 10. He worked on outfield drills, baserunning, throwing and hitting in the cage on Monday.
"I didn't feel it at all after the running drills. It's just getting the hitting together right now, the timing," Cain said."
• Seattle has won 17 of its last 29 road games and leads the Major Leagues with 87 home runs on the road.
• Monday's game ended a five-game winning streak by Seattle over Kansas City. The Mariners have won seven of the last nine matchups between the teams.
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.