Seattle, WA – Justin Smoak's three-run homer and James Paxton's seven scoreless innings helped the Seattle Mariners play the role of spoiler Tuesday in a 4-0 win over the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals entered the night three games behind the Indians for the AL's second wild card spot, and those dire odds got worse following Cleveland's walkoff win over the White Sox just hours before their setback.
Paxton (3-0), in his fourth career start, scattered four hits, did not walk a batter and struck out 10, while Kendrys Morales backed him with three hits, a run scored and an RBI.
"I just felt really good," said Paxton. "I was just locked in on what was going on. Everything felt great."
The loss fell to Bruce Chen (8-4), who surrendered all four runs on seven hits and three walks over the first five innings.
"We're not going to quit, we're not going to give up," said Chen. "As soon as we have a chance we're going to go out there and give everything we can."
Kansas City had won consecutive extra-inning games coming in and four of five overall, but fell in an early hole as Chen gave up three singles to the first four batters he faced, with Morales' single to left field bringing in Brad Miller.
Morales doubled with two away in the fifth to keep the inning alive, and Franklin Gutierrez worked a walk in front of Smoak, who fell down 0-2 in the court before tomahawking a fastball over the left-field wall.
The four-run cushion was plenty for Paxton and Seattle's bullpen, as Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar finished off the shutout with a scoreless inning of relief apiece.
"Straight downhill action on all his pitches," said Royals manager Ned Yost about Paxton. "Overpowering fastball at times, lot of life on it. The downhill pitches are tough to hit, especially fastballs."
Another victory will give Kansas City its highest win total since going 84-78 in 1993 ... Eric Hosmer had two of Kansas City's five hits ... Smoak's homer was his 19th of the season ... Wednesday's rubber match of the three-game set will pit Kansas City's Ervin Santana against Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma ... Game time: 2:27.