Iwakuma knocks Royals out of wild-card race - NBC Sports

Iwakuma knocks Royals out of wild-card race
APWF
Seattle Mariners' Mike Zunino, right, is congratulated by Brad Miller on Zunino's home run against the Kansas City Royals in the fifth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
September 26, 2013, 1:00 am

SEATTLE (AP) Hisashi Iwakuma pitched eight scoreless innings and Mike Zunino homered twice to lead the Seattle Mariners to a 6-0 win against Kansas City, ending the Royals' playoff hopes Wednesday night.

The Royals entered Wednesday four games behind Cleveland for the second wild-card berth with five games to play.

All three teams ahead of Kansas City in the wild-card hunt - Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Texas - won on Wednesday, and the Royals needed a victory to keep their slim hopes alive. Iwakuma made sure they didn't get one.

Ervin Santana (9-10) matched Iwakuma and kept the Mariners scoreless for the first four innings before Seattle broke through. Santana went six innings, allowing four runs and five hits with two strikeouts and four walks.

Kansas City was held scoreless in the last two games of the three-game series. The Royals haven't scored since the 12th inning of Monday's 6-5 win.

Michael Saunders also homered on Wednesday and Kyle Seager hit a two-run double for Seattle, which has won three of four. Zunino and Saunders hit back-to-back homers with two outs in the eighth inning, the 14th time this season Mariners have hit consecutive home runs.

Iwakuma (14-6) finished his season without allowing a run in three straight starts, a streak of 23 scoreless innings.

Against the Royals, he gave up four hits and never allowed more than one base runner in an inning. He didn't walk anyone until the eighth. He had nine strikeouts, the 13th time in 33 starts he struck out at least seven.

Iwakuma's 2.66 ERA is third-best in the American League, and he finishes the season 4-0 in his final eight starts.

Zunino broke the scoreless tie leading off the fifth inning, taking Santana's first pitch deep to left field.

The blast sparked more scoring for the Mariners. With one out, Brad Miller doubled and Nick Franklin walked. With Seager at the plate, Santana's pickoff attempt to second ended up in center field, putting runners on second and third. Seager then laced a double down the right field line to give Seattle a 3-0 lead.

The Mariners added a run in the seventh. Dustin Ackley led off the inning with a double, ending Santana's night.

Miller pushed a bunt up the first base line and reliever Will Smith's throw to first baseman Eric Hosmer was wide, allowing Ackley to score.

The Royals' best offensive chance came in the fifth, when Mike Moustakas doubled with one out and took off running when Jarrod Dyson hit a line drive which looked as if it might reach the outfield.

Instead, Miller at shortstop timed his jump and snared the ball, then jogged to second to double off Moustakas and end the inning.

NOTES: Seattle manager Eric Wedge said before the game he feels like he's "hanging out there" with little clarity regarding his future with the organization. Wedge's contract - originally a three-year deal - expires after the season and Wedge indicated he's been given no word about whether he'll return for a fourth year. ... Seattle has hit 183 home runs this year, tied with Toronto for second-best in the major leagues. ... The last time Kansas City was shut out in back-to-back games was May 22-23, 2009, at St. Louis.

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