Kansas City Royals can’t fend off Seattle Mariners’ sweep (this one was closer, though)

Kansas City Royals starter Alec Marsh has experienced a lot during his rookie campaign — some standout moments, such as his 11-strikeout performance against the Tampa Bay Rays, but also some difficult adjustments.

Marsh received another start Sunday against the Seattle Mariners’ red-hot lineup. He hung in for 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits and striking out nine, but the Royals were cold at the plate through most of the game and fell 3-2 at T-Mobile Park.

“I was excited,” Marsh said of his start. “I feel like whatever role they give me, it is what it is — I just want to get the ball. I would love to continue to start. I’ve got to continue to earn that right.”

The Royals finished their nine-game road trip 2-7.

Marsh has been utilized in multiple ways this season. He has operated as a “bulk” reliever and worked at various spots in the starting rotation, as he did Sunday.

“He had a ton of swing and miss and his stuff looked good,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “He was composed, had a good tempo and his delivery looked good.”

Marsh threw 101 pitches and generated 16 whiffs and 15 called strikes. He relied primarily on his four-seam fastball and mixed in a medley of sliders, curveballs and changeups. It was his third consecutive outing with six or more strikeouts.

But the Mariners took advantage of a few mistake pitches. In the second inning, Marsh left an 84.9 mph slider over the plate against Teoscar Hernandez. The former All-Star belted it for his 22nd home run.

Later, Mariners star Julio Rodriguez also left the yard. His two-run homer gave Seattle a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning.

“It was definitely miss,” Marsh said. “I was having trouble getting grips on the slider today. I got some fingernail stuff going on. I was kind of messing with pressure and stuff like that. So, it didn’t feel too comfortable.”

Both homers were enough run support for Mariners starter Luis Castillo, who limited the Royals lineup. Castillo improved to 11-7. He pitched seven innings and struck out six.

“He throws really hard,” Quatraro said. “He can throw a two-seamer and a four-seamer (fastball). He can elevate and pitch in when he needs to. When you have to be ready for that, his slider is a plus pitch.”

The Royals added two runs after he departed the game. Designated hitter Nelson Velázquez hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning before the Mariners closer Andrés Muñoz slammed the door.

KC dropped to 41-91. They haven’t been 50 games under .500 since the 2018 campaign.

Missed previous games of the series?

Game 1: Royals drop series opener 7-5 against the Mariners

Game 2: Mariners rout Royals 15-2 in Saturday matinee

Here are more notables from Sunday’s game:

Drew Waters records 6th outfield assist

The Royals turned in some stellar defensive work Sunday. In the sixth inning, Royals outfielder Drew Waters negated another Seattle run from scoring.

Waters fielded a double from Mariners right fielder Dominic Canzone. He fired a strike to second baseman Michael Massey, who quickly fired home. Royals catcher Salvador Perez applied the tag on Mariners first baseman Ty France.

“Everything had to be perfect for it to be executed,” Quatraro said. “That’s the No. 1 takeaway for me. He has a good arm, but if he doesn’t hit the first guy, we don’t have a chance.”

The Mariners challenged the call. Official replay upheld the ruling as the Royals escaped further damage.

The Royals lead the majors with 32 outfield assists this season.

Nelson Velázquez hits 8th home run

The Royals got some late offense going against the Mariners. After Castillo had pitched seven scoreless innings, the Royals went to work facing Mariners reliever (and former Royal) Gabe Speier.

Massey hit a leadoff single in the eighth inning. Next, Velázquez hit a two-run homer into the outfield seats. It was his eighth home run and the Royals pulled within one run.

“In that at-bat, he showed me the fastball and breaking ball,” Velázquez said. “I just stayed on the fastball and I got to hit it.”

The Royals nearly tied the game in the eighth, but Perez struck out with the tying run on second base.

What’s next: The Royals begin a three-game home series Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Kauffman Stadium. Zack Greinke will start against Johan Oviedo.