Royals gain ground in playoff chase
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals used a bunt and a blast to beat the Detroit Tigers and inch closer to a wild-card spot.
Salvador Perez hit a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning and the Royals rallied to beat the Tigers 4-3 on Saturday night. The victory moved the Royals, who have not made the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, to within 3 1/2 games of Tampa Bay for the final wild-card playoff spot. With 20 games remaining, manager Ned Yost said each victory is "very exhilarating."
"I'd be a liar if I said it wasn't," Yost said. "Every wins means something. Every pitch means something."
After Eric Hosmer doubled to lead off the sixth, Perez connected against Justin Verlander for his 11th home run of the season.
"I was ready for the fastball and he threw me one," Perez said. "I think the ball backed through the middle a little bit and I hit it pretty good."
Verlander, who is 0-3 in five starts against the Royals this season, allowed four runs and eight hits in seven innings.
"I liked that I was able to build on what I did last time," Verlander said. "I didn't like the two-run homer to Perez. I want to build on the positives and I feel like I made progress.
"That doesn't mean I expect to throw a shutout next time. Guys hit good pitches. Perez hit a good pitch. Obviously I would have liked to have won. I would have liked to have thrown a shutout, but to be honest, the last two games I have made good progress."
Wade Davis (7-10) picked up the victory with 1 2/3 effective innings of relief. Greg Holland, who blew a save on Thursday, pitched a flawless ninth to log his 39th save in 42 chances.
Royals left-hander Danny Duffy threw 31 pitches in the first inning. He walked Austin Jackson and Cabrera, two of the first three batters he faced. Fielder singled to right, scoring Jackson, with the first run.
The Royals tied it in the third when Emilo Bonifacio's bunt single on the first pitch from Verlander scored Alcides Escobar.
"That was an absolutely perfect bunt to score Esky with two outs," Yost said. "He has a bunch of different tools in his repertoire to help you win games."
The inning began with a David Lough double. Lough advanced to third on Jarrod Dyson's sacrifice bunt. With the infield in, Escobar hit a grounder to Fielder, who threw out Lough at the plate. Alex Gordon's single to right moved Escobar to third and he scored on Bonifacio's bunt.
Duffy's control again betrayed him in the fifth. Nick Castellanos led off the inning with an infield single, his first big-league hit. With one out, Duffy walked Roman Santiago and Jackson on eight pitches to load the bases.
That was Yost's cue to bring in Wade Davis. He struck out Torii Hunter, walked Cabrera to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead, and got Fielder to pop to third.
"I trust Wade in those situations," Yost said.
Verlander, however, could not hold the lead. The Royals tied it in the bottom of the fifth when Dyson walked, stole second and scored on Escobar's single to left.
"This is a real good team," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of the Royals. "They have a lot of weapons and the speed factor, and a really good bullpen. We had a couple of chances, but just couldn't come up with a big hit."
When Bonifacio was out on an attempted steal in the first, it ended two streaks. It was the first time Bonifacio had been caught stealing in 14 attempts since the Royals acquired him in an Aug. 14 trade with the Toronto Blue Jays and it snapped the Tigers' streak at 24 without catching a base stealer.
NOTES: Omar Infante and Andy Dirks each had five hits in the Friday victory. The last time the Tigers had more than one player with five hits in a game was July 30, 1917, at Washington (Ty Cobb, Bobby Veach and Ossie Vitt). ... Royals 2B Chris Getz, who was removed from the game on Tuesday, passed concussion tests and has been cleared to play. ... Tigers RHP Doug Fister, who starts Sunday, is 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA since the All-Star break.