At 2:52 p.m. on Sunday, three minutes after the Detroit Tigers captured the American League Central, manager Ned Yost began to prepare for the first Royals playoff game in nearly 29 years.
Josh Willingham stood in for Billy Butler as the go-ahead run at the plate in the fifth inning of a 6-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Jayson Nix replaced Alcides Escobar, who started all 162 games this season at shortstop, as a pinch-runner at third base. The maneuvers continued once the Royals took the field. Erik Kratz moved behind the plate. Fresh from the disabled list, Christian Colon took over third base. Yordano Ventura exited the mound after giving up four runs in his four frames.
Colon roped a two-run double in the sixth and scored the go-ahead run on a single by Carlos Peguero. In the end, the outcome meant little, due to a 3-0 Tigers victory over the Twins. Unable to nab the division crown, the Royals, 89-73, will play host to the AL Wild Card Game at 7:07 Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. They will play the Oakland A’s.
Heading into the day, the Royals required aid from the Tigers. The night before, Detroit lost to Minnesota. Kansas City could not recover from an early hole dug by starter Danny Duffy and deepened by reliever Tim Collins. To face a playoff game for the division crown, the Royals needed a Detroit loss to complement their own victory.
A second-inning burst gave Ventura an early lead. Billy Butler led off with a double. Alex Gordon followed with the same. Butler misread Gordon’s hit, which collided with the top of the right-field wall, and could only reach scored. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Salvador Perez. A two-out double by Mike Moustakas brought home Gordon.
The lead would not hold. White Sox second baseman Marcus Semien parked a 96-mph fastball in the left-field seats for a two-run shot. Ventura gave up an RBI double to catcher Josh Phegley in the third, and walked Semien with the bases loaded later in the inning.