Prior to their game on Saturday night, the Cleveland Indians got a little help from a divisional foe as the Kansas City Royals rallied for five runs with two outs in the top of the ninth to pull off an unlikely come-from-behind victory in Detroit over the Tigers, winning 7-4.
The loss by the Tigers drops the magic number for the Indians to clinch the American League Central Division to just two games. It also keeps alive the possibility that the Indians can clinch the crown on Sunday prior to hitting the road for the final seven games of the regular season schedule.
Things were not looking too hopeful for Cleveland, who was going to require at least one Tigers loss this weekend to the Royals to prevent the Indians from having to clinch on the road, potentially in Detroit during the two clubs’ four-game series beginning Monday.
The Royals took an early lead against Daniel Norris in the second, getting a sacrifice fly from Alcides Escobar to jump on top. The Tigers tied it in the bottom of the third on an RBI-single from Cameron Maybin after Ian Kinsler led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to third on a throwing error by KC starter Yordano Ventura. A single by Miguel Cabrera put runners on the corners and after a strikeout by Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez singled to left to put Detroit out in front, 2-1.
Maybin knocked in another run the following inning with a single to center, scoring Jose Iglesias, who had reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a single to center by Kinsler.
A homer by Kendrys Morales to lead off the sixth made it a 3-2 game, but the Tigers tacked on another run in the bottom half against the Royals bullpen as Maybin reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a passed ball, and scored on another RBI-single to left from the outfielder Martinez to make it a 4-2 game. The Tigers missed a big opportunity for more, loading the bases on a Justin Upton single before reliever Kevin McCarthy struck out James McCann swinging to leave them loaded.
The score remained the same into the ninth, when Detroit brought on closer Francisco Rodriguez. He allowed a single to Alex Gordon before a foul out by Escobar. Hunter Dozier singled to left before pinch-hitter Daniel Nava struck out for the second out. With the Royals down to their final strike, Paulo Orlando drove a 2-2 pitch to deep center, knocking in Gordon and pinch-runner Terrance Gore to tie the game at four. A walk by Cheslor Cuthbert kept the inning alive and Eric Hosmer made Rodriguez pay with a three-run blast to right to give the Royals a five-run two-out comeback and a 7-4 lead.
Kelvin Herrera came on to close it out, as the Royals had used closer Wade Davis in the eighth. Herrera earned his 12th save of the season by getting a pair of ground outs and a line out to end the ball game.
The Tigers dropped to 83-71 on the season and fell to 7.5 games in back of Cleveland in the AL Central. They also lost their foothold for the second AL Wild Card spot, moving into a tie with the Baltimore Orioles, who play Saturday night at 7:05 when they host the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Indians will look to reduce their magic number to one against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday night. Cleveland will employ the “bullpen game” again, with former starter Cody Anderson (2-4, 6.24 ERA) earning the starting nod. A well-rested bullpen, thanks to a long outing from Trevor Bauer on Friday that required the Indians to use just one reliever, will go the rest of the way. The White Sox will throw left-hander Jose Quintana (12-11, 3.26), who is 6-3 in his career against Cleveland with a 2.58 ERA in 18 games (16 starts) and is 1-2 this season with a 2.60 ERA in four starts, including a win in his most recent outing against them on September 13 in Chicago.
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