SEATTLE -- Anthony Vasquez had perhaps the best big league outing of his short career Sunday afternoon against the Royals, but solid Kansas City defense and the bright sun kept the rookie away from a win.
Royals starter Everett Teaford was impressive behind a strong defense in his first career start, while the Mariners struggled offensively for the second straight day, losing to Kansas City, 2-1, in front of 20,951 at a sunny Safeco Field.
The Mariners cut the Kansas City lead to 2-1 in the eighth after an Ichiro Suzuki RBI double down the first base line, but that was the only time Seattle would cross home plate.
Meanwhile, Vasquez did his best to keep the Mariners in the game with a career-high six strong innings, lowering his ERA from 9.00 to 7.29. He got a little bit of bad luck in the third inning when left fielder Mike Carp lost an Alex Gordon fly ball in the sun that allowed Alcides Escobar to score from first and gave the Royals an early 1-0 lead.
Vasquez gave up one more run, but otherwise, the 24-year-old said that Sunday's effort was his best outing yet and he's starting to feel more comfortable in the starting rotation. After giving up 12 earned runs in his first two starts, Vasquez has given up just four runs in his past two outings combined.
"I definitely have to take a lot of positives out of that, for sure," Vasquez said. "I'm just executing my pitches and keeping a good rhythm to the game with good tempo. I'm able to throw a lot of strikes and get ahead in the count."
He did run into some trouble in the seventh and was pulled after allowing the first two batters to reach base. Though Vasquez was only at 86 pitches -- he threw 98, 91 and 98 pitches in his past three starts, respectively -- manager Eric Wedge elected to go to his bullpen.
"The kid [who] was coming next had a couple knocks on him and I didn't want to come back to the top of the order," Wedge said. "I wanted to get [Shawn Kelley] in there. He's been a guy that has been very interesting here in the short term and we're trying to get him regular work."
Kelley, who has yet to give up a run in four appearances this month, then came on and gave up a double to Gordon that scored Brayan Pena, and the earned run went to Vasquez. Gordon was responsible for both Royals runs and finished 2-for-5.
That put the Royals up 2-1 and it was enough, as Vasquez fell to 1-3 in his first career quality start.
"Vasquez was better again today and better than his last outing," Wedge said. "He was in even more control today. His command of the ball was better and he had a little more zip on his fastball, too."
One day after managing just two hits, the Seattle offense was stifled again. Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley both reached on infield singles, while Miguel Olivo, Josh Bard and Justin Smoak each added singles in the holes before Ichiro's double in the eighth.
That was about all the Mariners could muster at the plate. Though Seattle hit the ball hard at times, the ball more often than not found the leather of the Royals defense. For the 39th time this season, the Mariners were held to one run or less.
Teaford kept Seattle in check for five innings and the Royals bullpen allowed just three more hits to secure Teaford's first career win.
"The defense was outstanding today," Teaford said. "Alcides [Escobar] made a couple nice plays, Gordon made a couple good plays, Frenchy's double play. I mean, it definitely was a team effort. The bullpen was outstanding."
Seattle also struck out 12 times Sunday after striking out 16 times during Saturday's 4-2 loss. In this four-game series, the Mariners fanned strike three 51 times. Manager Eric Wedge said it's all about being aggressive versus being passive.
"I felt earlier in the year, we were really passive," the first-year skipper said. "These guys are still trying to find it, but they're up there looking to hit. As we continue to get more experience, those strikeouts will come down and there will be more damage with those swings.
"Overall, we're seeing a lot of good things that are really inconsistent right now, which is not surprising. But what we want to do is be ready to hit and then you have something to work off of."
Smoak, who returned from the disabled list on Sept. 2, finished 1-for-4 and is hitting .333 (13-for-39) in the last 10 games, while Steve Delabar pitched a perfect ninth in his MLB debut.
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.