KANSAS CITY -- Victory continues to elude Zack Greinke, even when he deserves it.
Greinke pitched seven shutout innings but did not factor in the decision, as the Royals' bullpen squandered a two-run lead and lost to the Seattle Mariners, 3-2, on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Making matters worse, Royals hitters went just 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
"He deserved much better," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "He deserved better offensive support. He deserved a better job out of the bullpen."
Greinke extended his string of consecutive scoreless innings against the Mariners to 29 and lowered his ERA to 2.56, but he's still 0-2 in five starts. A year ago, he started his Cy Young Award-winning season with a 5-0 mark and 0.50 ERA in his first five starts.
"I feel like we probably should have won another five games than we have this year," Greinke said. "We've been playing well and just finding ways to lose the game, when we should be winning them. That's frustrating."
What really burned Hillman was that all three relievers he brought into the game gave up walks in the Mariners' three-run eighth inning.
"I'd rather see them banging the fences down on our bullpen than see them walking guys," Hillman said. "We had three different guys that ended up giving walks in situations where it can't happen."
Greinke left with a 2-0 lead, but reliever Josh Rupe gave up a walk and two hits for a run, exiting with one out in the eighth. Robinson Tejeda took over, and he tried to snare Jose Lopez's high chop and start a double play. Instead it went off his glove and rolled away for an RBI double that tied the score.
Should Tejeda have let the ball go through and hope that second baseman Alberto Callaspo could start a double play?
"Robby got a tailor-made double play ball but he stuck his glove out there, and it ended up biting us with the deflection," Hillman said. "These guys are taught to try to field everything that they can, and he either gets it in the web or he hits it off the end of the glove."
But the ball deflected off Tejeda's glove, meaning that there was still one out, and the score was 2-2.
"It's hard to let it go to our infielders behind us," Tejeda said. "We don't think about that in that situation. We just try to catch it and make a good throw. That's what was on my mind today. I saw the ball and thought, 'I've just got to catch the ball and make the double play.' "
Tejeda followed with a walk to Ken Griffey Jr. that loaded the bases. Hillman called for left-hander Bruce Chen because he wanted switch-hitter Milton Bradley to hit right-handed, Bradley's weaker side.
But, on a 3-2 pitch, Chen walked Bradley to force in the deciding run.
"It was a tough at-bat. I feel bad that I walked that guy. I should have just gone out there and challenged him. Maybe we'd still be playing," Chen said. "Next time, it won't happen."
The win ended the Mariners' four-game skid and came after the Royals' first back-to-back wins of the season.
The Royals flirted with a big breakout in the first inning against right-hander Ian Snell, loading the bases with no outs on singles by David DeJesus and Scott Podsednik, and a walk to Billy Butler. But Snell got three easy outs, and nobody could budge.
"We didn't get it done offensively," said catcher Jason Kendall, who made the third out in the first inning. "We didn't get the job done today. We should have knocked him out of there in the third or fourth inning."
While Greinke worked efficiently against the Mariners, the Royals went ahead 1-0 in the fourth when Kendall walked and scored on Mitch Maier's triple off the right-field wall. Another triple, by Alberto Callaspo, chased home Butler after his single in the fifth.
Greinke pitched past leadoff hits in the third, fourth and sixth innings. Despite one-out singles by Griffey and Bradley in the seventh, Greinke held his 2-0 lead. But, by then, he'd reached 119 pitches, including 77 strikes, and he yielded to the bullpen. Overall, Greinke gave up six hits and no walks with five strikeouts.
This was the third time that Greinke had turned over a lead to the bullpen and gotten a no-decision.
"Not because it's me personally, [but] we've just been throwing games away that we should be winning, and it probably will end up biting us at the end of the year, if we don't stop making mistakes in key situations," Greinke said. "I feel like we've played better than every team we've played so far. ... Playing good but just not getting the job done and it's cost us."
Hillman let Chen work out of the eighth with two strikeouts, and Chen also worked a scoreless ninth. If the Royals had tied the score in the ninth, Hillman would have brought in closer Joakim Soria.
That never happened. What did happen was that Greinke, once again, was without a victory.
"I just throw it, and, hopefully, it works out," Greinke said.
So far, though, for him it hasn't.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.