Crown jewel: KC wins AL Central
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals became the first Major League team to clinch a division title this season on Thursday as they rallied past the Mariners, 10-4, after Lorenzo Cain's two-run single in the sixth inning ignited a late-game rally and Johnny Cueto turned in seven strong innings of three-run ball.
The Royals, who made the playoffs last season for the first time in 29 years, captured their first American League Central crown. It also was their first division title in 30 years since they won the American League West in 1985, the year they won their only World Series championship.
The Royals clinched it with Thursday's win and the Twins' 6-3 loss to the Indians.
"When I woke up this morning, I had a great feeling we would win it," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "All tonight I thought we would win it. When I looked up and saw that Cleveland had scored six runs, I knew that this was going to be our night."
The Royals also increased their lead to two games over Toronto for home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Cueto gave up seven hits while walking two and striking out five, outperforming a gutsy effort by Seattle's bullpen after Mariners starter James Paxton left the game in the second inning because of a torn fingernail.
"He just did a great job," Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez said of Cueto. "He kept them down, kept us in it, and we were able to pull it out. He made some really good pitches tonight."
For the Mariners, Mark Trumbo had two hits and two RBIs and Logan Morrison homered off Wade Davis in the ninth in his first start since returning following the birth of his daughter.
"That was cool, but it's kind of insignificant in the grand scheme of things," Morrison said. "Obviously you don't really like it when people celebrate and we're the opponent. Personally, it was a good swing on a good pitch to hit. If it was early in the game with somebody on base, it could have been a different story."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
LoCain finds it at right time: Cain had been riding a mini-slump until breaking out with a three-hit game on Wednesday, that included the walk-off RBI hit. He was back at it on Thursday with the clutch two-run, two-out single in the sixth inning off Mariners reliever Joe Beimel. Cain roped a single between short and third to plate Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist, putting the Royals up, 5-3.
"We just really wanted to get this done, get this win," Cain said. "We had a great win last night and we really came out determined tonight. Definitely a great win for us and the fans."
Patchwork 'pen: With Paxton lasting just one out into the second inning before his latest finger issue sent him to the sidelines, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon had to lean heavily on a young bullpen filled with September callups as he used six pitchers in relief. Right-hander Mayckol Guaipe provided the biggest boost with four strikeouts in two scoreless innings to keep Seattle in a 3-2 lead through the fourth. Paxton was making just his third start since returning from 11 weeks on the disabled list with a strained tendon in the same middle finger on his left hand.
"It's tough," McClendon said. "It's hard to match up, and obviously we were forced to use a lot of youngsters in tough situations, and it didn't work out." More >
The homer-double twins: Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas each contributed a homer and double. Moustakas belted his 21st homer into the right-field corner in the second inning, putting the Royals up, 2-1. That homer tied Moustakas for the team lead with Kendrys Morales and represented a career high. With the Royals down, 3-2, in the fifth, Hosmer crushed his 16th homer over the center-field fence. Moustakas added a two-run single in the eighth.
Trumbo stays tuned up: The Mariners' right fielder gave Seattle a 3-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run double to left as he continued his strong second half. Trumbo went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and has now batted .303 (69-for-228) with 11 homers and 34 RBIs in his last 65 games to raise his average to .260 since his June 3 acquisition from the D-backs.
"Just kind of thinking what it would be like to do that. I think we have the talent in this room to do it. We've been playing a lot better as of late. We have to keep going, finish strong and maybe get some momentum going into next year. We have a lot of talent. Getting guys healthy and guys back, we're going to be a force to be reckoned with." -- Morrison, on his thoughts watching the Royals celebrate
Mariners: Vidal Nuno (1-3, 3.64 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game series in Anaheim at 7:05 p.m. PT as Seattle closes out its final road trip of the year. The southpaw swing man is 1-3 with a 4.75 ERA in seven starts after posting a 1.91 ERA in 25 relief appearances..
Royals: Volquez (13-8, 3.62) takes the hill in the first of three games with Cleveland at Kauffman Stadium. He took a no-decision in his last start against Detroit, giving up three runs over six innings, in an 11-inning, 6-5 Royals loss.
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