Royals miss chance to tie up AL Central
Enter final day of regular season one game back of Detroit after loss
CHICAGO -- A day after ascending into postseason heaven, the Royals dropped back to earth on Saturday night with a 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The setback cost the Royals a chance to tie for the lead in the American League Central with Detroit after the Tigers lost to Minnesota.
However, Kansas City still could catch Detroit on the regular-season's final day, but that would require a Royals win and a Tigers loss on Sunday. A tiebreaker would be played Monday at Detroit.
"We'll see what happens," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "Minnesota is doing a great job of playing Detroit and we've got [Yordano] Ventura on the mound and hopefully we can squeak out a win and Minnesota can have some magic one more time. And we'll go to Detroit and settle it there."
The Royals got one piece of positive news: They are guaranteed home-field advantage if they are in Tuesday's Wild Card Game because Oakland lost at Texas.
Of course, they'd prefer a Central title because that would propel them beyond Wild Card status and the winner-take-all contest and put them in a best-of-five AL Division Series against Baltimore.
"It's hard to believe that it's the last game of the season tomorrow and we still have a chance to compete for the division," Yost said. "It's a great feeling."
White Sox left-hander John Danks pitched seven innings for the victory and his catcher, Josh Phegley, hit two home runs. Danks, in his career, is 7-0 with a 2.43 ERA against the Royals.
"Danks has just been excellent. Every time we face him, we've just really struggled offensively," Yost said. "He's kind of got our number right now, that dirty rat."
Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, coming off six shutout innings of a win at Cleveland, this time lasted just one hitter into the third inning. He was tagged for four runs in the first two innings.
"I just didn't have my best stuff would be the best way to put it," Duffy said.
The game drew a sellout crowd of 38,160 to honor Paul Konerko and the start was delayed by ceremonies for the retiring White Sox star, but Duffy said that had no effect on his preparations.
"No, it didn't at all," Duffy said. "Hats off to Konerko. He had an amazing career and I think he deserves everything he gets -- all the accolades and all the time spent giving him props. No, it didn't interrupt me at all."
Maybe the White Sox, though, were pumped up by all the pomp and circumstance. Their first inning began with three hitters up, three runs home.
Duffy walked Adam Eaton, who stole second and scored on Alexei Ramirez's single. Jose Abreu pounded a 2-2 pitch over the right-center-field fence for a two-run homer, his 36th of the season to establish a new White Sox rookie mark.
"I left it up a little bit," Duffy said. "I tried to get it by him as I did two times previously in that at-bat and that time it just didn't work. You could think about going offspeed there, he hasn't hit my slider very well this year but, you know, hindsight is 20-20."
In the second inning, Phegley got a drive over the left-field wall, just barely past the glove of Alex Gordon, for a 4-0 lead.
When Abreu singled to open the White Sox third, Yost was quick to make a pitching change, starting a parade of five relievers. Duffy was through.
"He was struggling to command the baseball, he was struggling to get ahead, he was leaving pitches up and it was just one of those nights," Yost said.
Danks, though, was sharp. He gave up a single run in the third inning and then a solo home run to Salvador Perez in the seventh inning for a 4-2 score. It was Perez's 17th this season but his first since Sept. 1 against Texas.
Phegley, however, immediately reclaimed that run in the bottom half. He led off with his second home run to left field, this time off left-hander Tim Collins.
"But we battled back and cut the deficit and had some guys on in the late innings and just couldn't get it done," Eric Hosmer said.
The Royals got something going in the eighth against reliever Ronald Belisario. Alcides Escobar's walk and singles by Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain produced a run and it was 5-3.
Eric Surkamp relieved Belisario and got Hosmer to ground into a double play but only thanks to an artful turn by second baseman Carlos Sanchez. Jake Petricka relieved lefty Surkamp and got Billy Butler to ground out, stranding Aoki at third.
They stirred again in the ninth. Petricka retired with back problems after a leadoff walk to Gordon. Javy Guerra got two outs before Mike Moustakas lined an RBI single to put the Royals within one run. Escobar, though, grounded into the final out.
So it's down to game 162. Will there be game 163, a title tiebreaker with Detroit?
"Baseball's a crazy game," Hosmer said. "A lot of crazy stuff can happen."