SEATTLE -- On a night when one-run victories were all the rage among American League wild-card contenders, the Kansas City Royals were not among the celebrants -- for once.
The Royals' late-game magic ran out Tuesday in a 4-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners, leaving Kansas City's playoff hopes all but dead in the water with five games remaining. The Royals (83-74) trail the Cleveland Indians by four games and the Texas Rangers by three games in the race for the final American League wild-card berth.
"We're not going to quit," said Kansas City starter Bruce Chen, who gave up four runs over five innings Tuesday, with the big blow coming on a three-run homer he served up to Seattle's Justin Smoak in the fifth. "We're not going to give up. As long as we have a chance, we're going to give it everything we have."
Cleveland (87-70) and Texas (86-71) both won close games Tuesday. Kansas City never got in position for any such late-game heroics, thanks in large part to a stellar outing from Seattle rookie starter James Paxton.
Seattle (69-89) won for just the fourth time in its past 16 games.
Paxton (3-0) threw seven shutout innings while allowing just four hits. He had a career-high 10 strikeouts and closed out his short audition with the Mariners with a 1.50 ERA over four starts.
"There's a lot to like there," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "It's only been a few starts, but he's handled himself very well."
Wedge stopped short of saying Paxton, 24, pitched his way into consideration for the 2014 rotation.
"We're a long way from next year," he said, "but he's off to a great start."
Kendrys Morales went 3-for-4, including an RBI single that gave Seattle a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Smoak's blast extended the lead to 4-0, which was more than enough for Paxton.
Chen (8-4) allowed seven hits and three walks while striking out five.
"I was just trying to do everything I could to help this team win," he said.
Chen worked his way out of several jams early in the game. Seattle's first two batters of the game singled, and Morales' one-out hit gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead. Chen retired the next two batters to strand runners at first and third, and the score held up until the Smoak homer.
"He tried to get him to chase a high fastball," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said of the pitch that Smoak hammered over the left field fence, "and he just didn't get it up high enough."
The switch-hitting Smoak has 19 home runs this season, but Tuesday's was only his second from the right side of the plate.
Eric Hosmer had two of Kansas City's five hits. The Royals committed two errors in the loss, which came after back-to-back one-run victories.
Despite the long odds of making the postseason, Yost said the Royals aren't done yet.
"We just go," he said. "Until they say we can't win (a wild-card berth), we go as hard as we can."
NOTES: Mariners president Chuck Armstrong confirmed to the Seattle Times that general manager Jack Zduriencik would be back next season. Rumors of Zduriencik signing a one-year contract for 2014 began to surface last month, but until Tuesday no one within the organization confirmed them. ... Kansas City RHP James Shields (bruised right elbow) threw a successful bullpen session Tuesday afternoon, then said he would be available for Friday night's scheduled start against the Chicago White Sox. "Pencil me in," Shields told MLB.com....... Mariners LHP Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft and one of the organization's top prospects, is scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews to get a second opinion on his ailing shoulder. Shoulder problems limited Hultzen to 30 2/3 innings at Triple-A Tacoma this season. He was supposed to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, but the latest news puts that in jeopardy.
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