KANSAS CITY, Mo. —It's only 20 games into the season but, really, what's left to say about the Royals' bullpen beyond uncle?
Tuesday offered up still another late-inning debacle when Josh Rupe, Robinson Tejeda and Bruce Chen conspired to waste seven shutout innings by Zack Greinke in a 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium.
It was an appalling waste but not the only one. Save some blame for an inefficient attack that went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
One. For. Fourteen.
As for Greinke, he gave up six hits in seven innings before handing off a 2-0 lead. He threw 119 pitches, a season-high by a Royal, and struck out five while walking none.
That effort lowered Greinke's ERA from 3.28 to 2.56 and extended his shutout streak against Seattle to 29 innings. He was the reigning Cy Young winner in top form.
It wasn't enough.
Rupe started the eighth by striking out Jack Wilson, but Ichiro Suzuki bunted for a single and moved to second on a four-pitch walk to Chone Figgins.
Franklin Gutierrez broke the shutout by grounding a single through the left side past third baseman Alex Gordon. That finished Rupe, and brought Tejeda into the game.
Tejeda jumped ahead 0-2 on Jose Lopez, who then hit a topped back through the middle. Tejeda jumped, tipped it with his glove — and deflected it past second baseman Alberto Callaspo.
If the ball goes untouched, it might result in an inning-ending double play. Instead, it turned into an RBI double, which tied the game, stuck Greinke with a no-decision and put runners at second and third with one out.
A walk to Ken Griffey Jr. loaded the bases and concluded Tejeda's contribution.
In came Bruce Chen, who forced in the go-ahead run by walking Milton Bradley. Chen struck out the next two hitters and worked a scoreless ninth, but the damage was done: three runs on three hits and three walks.
The Royals were done, too. They went quietly in the eighth against Mark Lowe and in the ninth against David Aardsma, who got his seventh save in eight chances. Shawn Kelley (1-0) got the victory for 1 2/3 scoreless innings after replacing starter Ian Snell.
Greinke remains winless this season despite handing leads to the bullpen in three of his five starts. The loss went to Rupe (0-1) although, wow, it was a shared effort.
Snell permitted 12 baserunners in his 5 1/3 innings but limited the damage to two runs before departing with men at first and second. Kelley stranded both runners.
Those squandered opportunities first appeared ready to bite the Royals when Seattle put two runners on base for the first time on successive one-out singles in the seventh by Griffey and Bradley.
But Greinke maintained the shutout by getting Casey Kotchman to ground into a fielder's choice, which retired Bradley at second, and retiring Adam Moore on a fly to right.
Then it got ugly.
The Royals started their offensive bungling in the first inning after loading the bases with no outs.
Snell fell behind 2-0 on Jose Guillen before fighting back for a strikeout before escaping when Callaspo fouled out to third and Jason Kendall hit a topper back to the mound.
The Royals mounted another threat when Alex Gordon opened the second inning with a double past first. He went to third on Mitch Maier's grounder to first but got no farther. Yuniesky Betancourt struck out, and David DeJesus grounded to first.
Snell cracked in the fourth after Kendall led off with a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Maier pulled an RBI triple into the right-field corner for a 1-0 lead.
That was it, though.
The Royals stranded Maier at third when Betancourt hit a weak grounder to third with the infield in, and DeJesus flied to left.
The second run came in the fifth. Butler reached on a one-out single and came all the way around for a 2-0 lead when Callaspo yanked a two-out triple past Suzuki in right. Callaspo remained rooted at third.