The end to the Royals’ first real postseason chase since the days when MTV still played music came quietly and peacefully Wednesday night in a pulseless 6-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
The Royals’ biggest season-long shortcoming, an inconsistent attack, flat-lined for a second straight night — this time against Hisashi Iwakuma, who yielded just four hits in eight innings.
And this was one time too many.
The loss, combined with results elsewhere, officially extended the Royals’ absence from postseason to 28 years. (That’s back to MTV’s halcyon days of Springsteen and Madonna and way before local grunge icons Nirvana.)
Bowled over by the pop culture? Just know it’s been a long time.
“It shows us how close we are,” right fielder Justin Maxwell said. “Another thing, too, it shows you that every game counts. … It shows you that you can’t give any game away throughout the season.
“Hopefully, we can use that for motivation come spring training and, come the start of next season, we’ll be ready to go from day one.”
Ervin Santana dropped to 9-10 after permitting four runs and five hits over six-plus innings in what might be his last outing as a Royal. He becomes a free agent after the season and figures to draw heavy market interest.
“Just trying to focus and do my thing,” Santana insisted. “If I’m going to be here, I’m going to be here. So, no, I’m not worrying about that now.”
And the Royals seemed to know this might be it.
Dustin Ackley lined Santana’s 103rd and final pitch into the left-center gap for a leadoff double in the seventh inning. Manager Ned Yost patted Santana on back while they awaited Will Smith’s arrival from the bullpen.
“I told him, ‘You know, Erv, you had a great year. I’m real proud of you.’” manager Ned Yost said.
Catcher Salvy Perez clapped his hand to his glove as Santana walked toward the dugout. The Royals trailed 3-0 at the time, and a throwing error by Smith allowed Ackley to score before the inning ended.
Smith also yielded a two-out homers in the eighth inning to Michael Saunders and Mike Zunino, which closed out the scoring. Zunino’s blast was his second of the game. His leadoff drive in the fifth opened the scoring.
Iwakuma, 14-6, was magnificent in closing out a strong season-ending kick; he is unbeaten in his last eight starts while limiting opponents to 10 runs in 56⅔ innings.
“His last four, five or six starts, he’s been so consistent in his delivery and in executing his pitches,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “And his stuff is so good. He’s just very consistent, very efficient.
“He was just outstanding.”
The only qualifier on Iwakuma’s effort is the Royals looked similarly feeble against rookie James Paxton in Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Mariners. They’ve looked that way too often this year for a legitimate contender.
“Those were two great pitching performances,” Yost said. “You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. They shut us down. Both guys. Both nights.”
The Royals, 83-75, close their season with a four-game series, beginning Thursday night, in Chicago.
“We’ll rest some guys now,” Yost said. “Salvy will get a day off (Thursday). We’ll get some of the younger guys in some of these games here the next four games.
“Guys who have been here, working hard and haven’t had an opportunity to play. We’ll mix them in the next four days and see if we can’t win some games.”
Neither team scored until Zunino turned on a first-pitch fastball from Santana to start the fifth inning for a no-doubt homer to left field. Santana had allowed only one hit, a single, through the first four innings.
The Mariners’ next hit wasn’t long in coming: Brad Miller lined a one-out double into the right-field corner. Santana then walked Nick Franklin and followed that by firing a pickoff throw into center field.
That put runners at second and third — and both scored on Kyle Seager’s double into the right-field corner … 3-0, Seattle.
“He didn’t hit it good,” Yost said. “(Santana) kind of jammed him a little bit, but (the ball) went right down the line.”
That was plenty.
As happened Tuesday, bad news arrived early to Safeco Field from points east. When Cleveland beat Chicago, for the 17th time in 19 games, the Royals’ tragic number hit one.
In short, that meant — at that moment — any combination of one Royals loss or Indians victory would prevent the Royals from catching the Indians.
Shortly thereafter, Tampa Bay polished off New York, which mathematically eliminated the possibility that the Royals could catch the Rays in the wild-card chase.
Texas also won, which meant the Rangers, who are also chasing the Rays and Indians, would remain at least three games ahead of the Royals.
The countdown hit zero all around when Charlie Furbush closed out Iwakuma’s victory by pitching a scoreless ninth inning.