SEATTLE — Justin Smoak hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat Kansas City, 4-0, on Tuesday night to put the Royals’ postseason chances in serious jeopardy.
Mariners rookie left-hander James Paxton (3-0), making just his fourth major league start, worked a career-high seven innings, allowing four hits, walking none and striking out a career-high 10
It was the 13th shutout for the Mariners and the ninth time the Royals have been shut out.
The playoff picture looks as bleak as it can be for the Royals (83-74). They are four games behind Cleveland for the second
American League wild-card berth with five games to play.
The Royals’ three competitors for the two wild-card spots — Tampa Bay, Texas and Cleveland — all won Tuesday. The Royals need to win every game and have both the Indians and Rangers completely collapse.
Seattle touched Bruce Chen (8-4) for a run in the first when Brad Miller reached on an infield single followed by Abraham Almonte’s single to center. Almonte has reached base in all his 18 games to start his career — 16 with a hit.
With one out, Kendrys Morales singled to left, driving in Miller.
Chen worked five innings, allowing seven hits and four runs. He walked three and struck out five.
The Royals could not respond against Paxton. They put together two singles in the first inning, but a double play got him out of trouble. He didn’t allow more than one base runner in any inning after that, and at one point, he retired 12 consecutive batters.
The Mariners blew the game open with three runs in the fifth. Morales, who had three hits, doubled to deep center with two outs. Franklin Gutierrez walked, and Smoak hit an 0-2 fastball over the wall in left field.
Smoak has 19 homers this season, but it was just his second one as a right-handed hitter. The other was Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels.
REPORT: ZDURIENCIK TO RETURN IN 2014
It looks as though general manager Jack Zduriencik will get to put that one-year contract extension to use next season.
On Tuesday, the Seattle Times reported that Zduriencik would be back next season. There had been some thought that the Mariners’ disappointing 2013 season would lead to the firing of Zduriencik.
However, president Chuck Armstrong told the Times that Zduriencik would be back for the 2014 season.
Randy Adamack, team vice president of communications, later confirmed what Armstrong had told the Times – that Zduriencik would be back next season.
This will be the Mariners’ fourth straight losing season with Zduriencik as general manager. His only winning season with the Mariners came in 2009, his first year with the team, when Seattle had an 85-77 record.
HULTZEN TO SEE ANDREWS
The 2013 season has been lost for Danny Hultzen and the Mariners.
Zduriencik announced Tuesday afternoon at Safeco Field that the club’s prized pitching prospect will head to Birmingham, Ala., to see noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his ailing throwing shoulder.
Hultzen felt discomfort in the shoulder while throwing in the Arizona instructional league. He was examined then by team physician Dr. Edward Khalfayan.
“Ed saw him, and quite frankly he doesn’t like what he sees,” Zduriencik said. “He saw some damage that he was unhappy with. It’s not the rotator cuff. It’s the tendon area, labrum area.”
Hultzen wanted to seek a second opinion, a move favored by Dr. Khalfayan. The Mariners will wait to hear about Andrews’ exam before making decisions.
Hultzen was shut down twice this season because of shoulder discomfort. Both times it was labeled as a rotator cuff strain caused by faulty pitching mechanics.
The Mariners re-examined his mechanics and made changes during his most recent recovery and throwing program.
The issue was thought to be fixed. Hultzen had worked his way to pitching off the mound by the end of the Triple-A Rainiers’ season, and he was slated to pitch in the Arizona Fall League to make up for some of his lost innings this season.
That plan was scratched after the recent injury issue.
Zduriencik didn’t mention surgery, but it seems to be a strong possibility.
“Until we get the second opinion and the doctors put their heads together, we don’t know exactly what this is,” Zduriencik said.Staff writer Ryan Divish contributed to this report.