Two of the best rookie pitchers in the American League will take the hill on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, although one comes in with more acclaim than the other.
Armed with a fastball that touches triple digits, Yordano Ventura takes the mound for the Royals. Opposing him will be Roenis Elias, who has been a consistent and solid starter for the Mariners as they bid for a three-game series sweep.
Ventura got a head start on his career with three starts late last season and has helped Kansas City's recent surge in the AL Central standings. During his last outing, the right-hander received 11 runs of support as the Royals jumped past the Tigers for first place. The Royals have since fallen back into second place.
"It's nice, but we've got a lot of games to play," manager Ned Yost said after Ventura's last start on Wednesday. "We don't get all geeked up."
Meanwhile, Elias and Seattle have both been impressive this season. The Mariners are three games above .500 following back-to-back wins in this series and Elias has posted a 3.97 ERA. He allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings during his last outing against the Padres.
"He gets better every day, and every day is a new adventure, a new journey for him," manager Lloyd McClendon said after the win against San Diego. "He's a very intelligent, bright young man. Very talented and a tremendous athlete. The combination of all those things, he's starting to make it look easy."
Mariners: Miller delivers big run again
A day after hitting the go-ahead homer in the ninth in a 7-5 win against the Royals, Brad Miller scored the opening run of the Mariners' 2-1 win on Saturday.
The middle infielder, who went 2-for-3 on Saturday, brought his batting average above .200 for the first time since April.
"The one thing we forget, particularly with young players, it's hard to play the game of baseball, it's really hard," McClendon said. "When you start to get a few hits, your confidence goes up and all of a sudden you relax on the field."
With Miller struggling, McClendon benched the lefty for a handful of games in late May. Miller ended the month with a .158 batting average and has since steadily moved his way past the Mendoza line.
"Sometimes getting away from the game helps, where you just sit back and watch and analyze, figure out what's going on," McClendon said. "I don't know if that helps, but nothing else worked."
Royals: Maxwell back with Aoki on DL
Outfielder Justin Maxwell was brought back from Triple-A Omaha on Saturday as right fielder Nori Aoki was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of his recurring problems with a groin injury.
Maxwell went right into the starting lineup in right field -- going 1-for-3 -- against Seattle as Lorenzo Cain got a day off.
Aoki came out of Tuesday's game at Detroit in the second inning because of the injury, missed Wednesday's game, and played again on Thursday, but not at 100 percent. Although Aoki felt better when the club returned to Kansas City, Yost decided to rest him on Friday night, but Aoki was needed as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning .
"When he had to jump out of the way of that pitch is when he re-tweaked it," Yost said. "So they MRI'd him today and it's a grade one-plus strain. They injected it so that will aid the healing process. So, he'll be 15 days to 20 days and we'll see what we get."
Maxwell was hitting .316 in 25 games for the Storm Chasers with five homers, five doubles and 18 RBIs.
• Seattle closer Fernando Rodney notched his 20th save of the season on Saturday, giving him at least 20 saves for the third consecutive season. He had just one 20-save season during his first nine years in the Majors.
• Royals closer Greg Holland had not given up more than one run in an outing since April 6, 2013, a span of 95 appearances, until yielding the two go-ahead runs in the ninth in Friday night's loss. The Mariners' runs also snapped a string of 16 consecutive scoreless appearances dating to May 5 at San Diego.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.