SEATTLE — When Seattle’s Justin Smoak hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning Tuesday night, the Kansas City Royals’ chances for a win and perhaps a postseason appearance were in big trouble.
Smoak hit an 0-2 fastball from Bruce Chen (8-4) for his career-matching 19th home run and the Mariners went on to a 4-0 victory, creating a bleak playoff picture for the Royals.
Time is running out — just five games remaining — much distance needs to be covered and two teams need to be hurdled.
The Royals’ three competitors for the two AL wild-card spots — Tampa Bay, Texas and Cleveland — all won Tuesday.
The Royals, down four games in the loss column to Cleveland, need to win every game and hope that both the Indians and the Rangers completely collapse.
“We just go till they say we can’t win it,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “We go as hard as we can. Keep playing our best guys and staying after it.”
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.
“He looked real good. Big, tall kid, straight over the top, straight downhill action on all his pitches,” Yost said. “Good fastball, I mean, over-powering fastball at times, got it up to 97, lot of life on it. But downhill pitches are tough to hit, especially fastballs. Good breaking stuff, good changeup, good curveball.”
Paxton said it didn’t matter to him that the Royals had everything on the line.
“I wasn’t really paying attention to that. I was just focusing on executing pitches, one pitch at a time,” he said. “It could be just the electricity. Being out there it just kind of raises your intensity up that much more. I think it helps me to get lock in.”
It was the 13th shutout for the Mariners and the ninth time the Royals have been shut out.
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.
DIAMONDBACKS 2, PADRES 1, 12 inn
SAN DIEGO — Didi Gregorius tripled home the tiebreaking run in the 12th inning to lift the Diamondbacks over the Padres.
Paul Goldschmidt hit his NL-best 36th homer for the Diamondbacks, extending his hitting streak to 14 games and increasing his league-leading RBI total to 124.
Gregorius tripled down the right-field line against Luke Gregerson (6-8) to score fellow rookie Chris Owings, who doubled with one out.
Josh Collmenter (5-4) pitched a perfect inning and Brad Ziegler got three outs for his 12th save.
The Diamondbacks set a major league record for most extra innings played in a season with 79. Arizona, which is 17-7 in extra-inning games, broke the record of 76 set by the 1969 Minnesota Twins.
DODGERS 2, GIANTS 1
SAN FRANCISCO — Hyun-Jin Ryu and two relievers combined on a five-hitter that sent the Dodgers past the Giants.
Matt Kemp hit a tiebreaking home run leading off the sixth inning for the Dodgers. Yasiel Puig also homered after getting hit by a pitch from Giants starter Matt Cain earlier in the game.
Carl Crawford added three hits for the NL West champions, who have won three straight.
Tony Abreu homered for San Francisco. The Giants got just one runner past first base and were held to no more than one run for the third time in four games.
INDIANS 5, WHITE SOX 4
CLEVELAND — Pinch-hitter Jason Giambi belted a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning to give Cleveland a stunning, keeping the Indians up with the lead pack in the AL wild-card race.
Giambi drove a 1-1 pitch from Addison Reed (5-4) into the lower deck in right field to save the Indians from a potentially devastating loss. Giambi’s shot bailed out controversial closer Chris Perez, who gave up two homers in the top of the ninth.
As he rounded third base, the 42-year-old Giambi slowed down before being engulfed by his teammates as the Indians celebrated their 13th straight win over Chicago.
Bryan Shaw (6-3) came in after Perez had nearly given away a game the Indians couldn’t afford to lose.
RAYS 7, YANKEES 0
NEW YORK — Matt Moore had New York flailing for five wild innings, and the Rays beat the Yankees to push them to the brink of missing out on the postseason for the second time in 19 years.
Tampa Bay roughed up Hiroki Kuroda in tightening its grip on an AL wild-card spot with its fifth straight win. Matt Joyce had a leadoff homer as the Rays jumped ahead 3-0 in the first and David DeJesus had two RBI doubles.
TIGERS 4, TWINS 2
MINNEAPOLIS — Doug Fister struck out seven and the Tigers homered three times in the fourth inning to clinch a playoff berth with a victory over the Twins.
BLUE JAYS 3, ORIOLES 2, 10 inn
BALTIMORE — The Toronto Blue Jays eliminated Baltimore from the playoff hunt, using two clutch RBI singles by Mark DeRosa to beat the Orioles.
Baltimore’s sixth straight loss, combined with Cleveland’s comeback win over the Chicago White Sox, left the Orioles six games behind the Indians for the final wild-card slot with five games left.
RANGERS 3, ASTROS 2
ARLINGTON, Texas — Adrian Beltre homered at home for the first time in more than a month and the Texas Rangers stayed close in the wild-card race, beating Houston and sending the Astros to their 11th straight loss.
With five games left in the regular season, Texas remained a game behind Cleveland for the AL’s second wild-card spot. Tampa Bay is a game ahead of the Indians in a crowded pack.
ANGELS 3, ATHLETICS 0
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jason Vargas earned his second shutout of the season with a four-hitter and Howie Kendrick homered, leading the Angels to a victory over the Athletics.
The Athletics, who clinched their second straight division title Sunday, remain a game behind the Red Sox for the best record in the majors following Boston’s 8-3 loss at Colorado.
PIRATES 8, CUBS 2
CHICAGO — Gerrit Cole threw six strong innings, helping Pittsburgh take over the NL wild-card lead.
The Pirates moved one game ahead of Cincinnati, which lost 4-2 to the Mets. Pittsburgh remained two games behind NL Central-leading St. Louis.
METS 4, REDS 2
CINCINNATI — Daniel Murphy hit a three-run homer off Mike Leake, whose long streak of scoreless innings got shattered early, and the Mets dealt the Reds a costly setback to their hopes of a second straight NL Central title.
The Reds and Pirates clinched playoff spots on Monday night, but hope to chase down first-place St. Louis with closing surges. Leake’s one very bad inning made that much less likely for Cincinnati.
BRAVES 3, BREWERS 2
ATLANTA — Andrelton Simmons hit a game-ending RBI single with two out in the ninth, lifting the Braves to the victory.
Justin Upton sparked the winning rally with a leadoff single against Donovan Hand (0-5). Upton advanced on Evan Gattis’ one-out grounder that Scooter Gennett bobbled behind second base for an infield hit. After Brian McCann popped out, Simmons’ first hit of the night ended the game.
PHILLIES 2, MARLINS 1
MIAMI — Darin Ruf and Kevin Frandsen each drove in a run in the first inning, and the Phillies handed the Marlins their 100th loss of the season.
It’s the second triple-digit-loss season in Marlins history, joining the 108-defeat year in 1998. Mike Redmond, the first-year Marlins manager, was a rookie on that team, playing in 37 games.
ROCKIES 8, RED SOX 3
DENVER — Charlie Blackmon hit his first career leadoff homer and Tyler Chatwood pitched seven strong innings, leading Colorado to the victory.
John Lackey (10-13) struggled on the road again, allowing four runs and six hits in six innings. The right-hander is 1-5 away from Fenway Park since the All-Star break.