KANSAS CITY — The last time Kris Bubic faced the Mariners in late August, they knocked him around for five runs on nine hits.
On Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium, Bubic looked like a different pitcher.
The left-hander allowed just two hits and one run across 6 1/3 innings in the Royals’ 8-1 win over Seattle, securing the season series (4-2) and evening this three-game set ahead of Sunday’s matinee finale. It’s the first season series victory over the Mariners since 2017 (5-2), and Saturday’s win snapped a seven-game losing streak against Seattle at Kauffman Stadium.
“Our staff and our [catchers] know what I’m doing when I’m at my best,” Bubic said. “The game plan sometimes changes for teams, but for the most part, if I hit on a couple different things in an outing, then I know it’s going to be a quality day for the most part.
“I know I could execute a lot better today than I did pitching at their place. It was just a matter of going out and doing it.”
Kansas City’s offense jumped out to a quick two-run lead in the first inning and added on later with Michael A. Taylor’s RBI double in the third and homer in the sixth. The Royals broke through with a four-run eighth to total 15 hits, with all nine position players recording at least one hit for the second time this season.
That allowed Bubic to settle in from the start, and he shut the Mariners’ lineup down with a crafty combination of his fastball and changeup while mixing in the curveball enough to keep hitters off balance.
After Domingo Tapia took over for Bubic in the seventh, the only hit the Royals’ bullpen allowed was Ty France’s single off lefty Gabe Speier in the ninth.
Bubic (5-6) had trouble landing a few pitches in the first inning and walked France with two outs, but the lefty settled in from there and didn’t give the Mariners many opportunities by staying away from the middle of the plate. He established the fastball early and let the changeup work off it.
“It won’t surprise you, but fastball command early,” manager Mike Matheny said about what impressed him the most about Bubic’s outing. “And then how he added everything. He was living on the corners with just about everything. … He was hitting all quadrants, and he was living on the edges.”
Two of Bubic’s walks were to Jarred Kelenic, who single-handedly beat the Royals in Friday’s series opener with a pair of two-run homers. But he scattered the four walks and induced weak contact around them. He averaged a 77.8 mph exit velocity on his fastball and 76.9 mph exit velocity on his changeup.
Bubic recorded nine of his 19 outs on groundouts, benefiting from the typical staunch infield defense.
Among the helpers was Adalberto Mondesi, who made a slick grab and turn in the sixth inning to get Dylan Moore out at first base. Then, Bubic lost the 12-pitch battle with J.P. Crawford for a one-out walk, but Mitch Haniger grounded a ball to Mondesi, who started his second double play of the game.
Another was catcher Salvador Perez, who caught Moore attempting to steal second base in the third inning. Perez has thrown out 15 of 37 baserunners (40.5 percent) this season, best in the American League.
As the defense helped out, Bubic found a better feel for his curveball later in his outing. Once he started to land those, the Mariners had trouble guessing along with him.
“It’s huge,” Bubic said. “You get through the lineup second and third time. Faced them not too long ago. And then having that in the back pocket, being able to unleash it a little bit better the second and third time through was huge.”
The consistent usage of Bubic’s curveball has been the biggest development in the 24-year-old’s second season in the Majors. Once he gained the confidence to throw it in games, he began to throw it more in different counts.
And it’s given him a third weapon to go deep into games.
“That’s been the biggest point of growth I’ve seen with him this season,” Matheny said. “Just the faith that he has in that pitch now. He’s paying attention to what the hitters are telling him. They’re not doing a lot with it. … It just makes him more dangerous. It’s really hard to guess what direction he might go. It’s a great addition to an already good repertoire.”