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Umpires' reversal removes Royals' run in sixth

Perez did not tag at third base before trying to score on Tigers' error

Umpires' reversal removes Royals' run in sixth

KANSAS CITY -- After further review, a Tigers middle infield calamity became a game-changing escape. However, it wasn't replay, but an umpires' conference that ruled Salvador Perez never tagged up for the Royals' would-be go-ahead run in the sixth inning of their AL Central showdown on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium.

The play in question began when Omar Infante lined out to second baseman Ian Kinsler with runners at second and third and one out in the sixth inning of a 1-1 game. Kinsler, seeing Eric Hosmer scrambling to get back to second, immediately looked for a chance to double him off and end the threat.

Shortstop Eugenio Suarez, making his first start in a week and his second in 13 days, was late getting to the bag. Suarez dashed over as the throw went behind him and back towards short left field. Perez, who was headed back to third at the time, took off for home.

Perez scored easily from third, but he never touched third base before doing so. And despite the error, it remained a tag-up play. Someone from the Tigers' dugout noticed it and told starting pitcher Max Scherzer to throw to third for the appeal.

Initially, third-base umpire and crew chief Larry Vanover ruled Perez tagged up, prompting Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to argue for a review. After a lengthy conference, Vanover headed over to the headphones to talk with replay officials in New York.

According to the FOX broadcast, Vanover was told the play was not reviewable, leaving the umpires to decide amongst themselves. However, the replay showed on the scoreboard at Kauffman Stadium, and the groan from the sellout crowd made it clear Perez never touched third base.

The call was reversed, and the error was taken away from Suarez. Perez was out, the inning was over, and the game stayed tied until Tyler Collins' pinch-hit RBI single pulled the Tigers ahead in the top of the seventh inning.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Willingham bats third with Cain getting break

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KANSAS CITY -- Lorenzo Cain has gone 9-for-28 (.321) in the Royals' homestand, but he was not in the No. 3 spot in Saturday's starting lineup against the Tigers. Instead, Josh Willingham batted third as the designated hitter.

There were a couple of reasons.

"Well, Cain's 0-for-15 off of [Max] Scherzer," manager Ned Yost said. "Willingham's got two homers and this late in the year, on a quick turnaround, we've been giving Cain a break because he really uses his legs and beats his legs up. So ... it was a good matchup day to give him a break."

Yost picked Willingham over longtime DH Billy Butler.

"Billy's been slowed down and in a bit of a slump here lately so you're just trying to go with the hot hand," Yost said. "Willingham's been giving us good at-bats, taking his walks when they're presented to him and has good numbers off Scherzer."

Cain has avoided the leg injuries which plagued him earlier in his career.

"He's done a great job each and every year, stretching and working real hard in the winter to get himself into a position where he can go," Yost said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Royals' rookies get chance to swing their bats

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KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' lopsided 10-1 loss to the Tigers in Friday night's series opener allowed for a few young players to achieve career firsts.

Terrance Gore, called up primarily for his baserunning skills, logged his first Major League at-bat. The speedy outfielder saw eight pitches before grounding out to the pitcher.

"Yeah I was nervous," Gore said. "But I guess everyone gets nervous in that situation."

Outfielder Lane Adams also got his first MLB at-bat. Like Gore, Adams worked an impressive eight-pitch at-bat, which culminated in a towering fly ball to left field. Defensively, Adams played both left and center field.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Royals routed by Tigers, slip in playoff races

Vargas yields five runs in 3 1/3 as KC falls 1 1/2 back in AL Central

Royals routed by Tigers, slip in playoff races play video for Royals routed by Tigers, slip in playoff races

KANSAS CITY -- By the time Detroit's fifth inning was over the Tigers had a 10-run lead and the sellout crowd at Kauffman Stadium was looking for something to cheer about. Luckily, the Hot Dog Derby was launched and that drew a rousing ovation as Ketchup doggedly prevailed.

The pro-Royals assemblage of 37,945, armed with noisy ThunderStix and high hopes of a first-place standing, had to endure an unyielding Tigers attack that eventually led to a 10-1 victory in Friday night's first round of the much-anticipated showdown for first in the American League Central.

The win, the Tigers' 12th over the Royals in 17 meetings this season, increased their lead to 1 1/2 games.

"There's no carryover," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They whooped us, they beat us, they spanked us. Whatever you want to say. We'll show up tomorrow and be ready to play."

The Royals' two rivals in the Wild Card race both won. Oakland is a half-game ahead of them, Seattle a half-game behind.

The blue-clad fans who packed the stadium never lost their enthusiasm. They stubbornly urged on the Royals the rest of the way, roaring as if their numbers could turn the tide. After all, a first postseason trip in 29 years was the fervent hope of the hungry masses.

But nothing worked.

"It's disappointing for the fans and they should be disappointed," said losing pitcher Jason Vargas. "They come out here to see us play a competitive game and we didn't do that from pitch one. So I'd be disappointed if I were them as well."

When the Royals didn't score against Justin Verlander in the sixth inning, Yost pulled four of his regulars out of the game -- Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain and Omar Infante. Alcides Escobar followed in the next inning.

Verlander worked 7 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits with no walks and four strikeouts. He left after Johnny Giavotella led off the eighth with a double and advanced to third on Mike Moustakas' flyout. After Evan Reed took over the mound, Jayson Nix's sacrifice fly got Giavotella home.

The win gave Verlander a 19-7 career record against the Royals.

"It felt good," Verlander said." Obviously it's a huge series for us and that's what I love about this team. We always seem to know the moment and know how to capture it, since I've been here anyway. This is a great win."

When Vargas was taken out in the fourth inning, the Tigers had a 5-0 lead and eight of the batters in their lineup had a hit off the left-hander.

There were five hits and three runs in the first inning. Miguel Cabrera's line drive got just over Gordon's glove for a double that scored Ian Kinsler. It was the type of ball that the left fielder often catches.

"The ball was probably knuckling it was hit so hard. Gordy's a three-time Gold Glove winner, you don't see him just miss that on a routine fly ball," Yost said.

It turned into a three-run inning.

"It's my responsibility as a starting pitcher to set the tone and set the tempo of the game, and what I did was exactly opposite," Vargas said.

It was 4-0 when the Royals had their best shot at Verlander in the second. Salvador Perez looped a one-out single and Eric Hosmer doubled. But they were stranded as Billy Butler flied out on a 3-0 pitch and Omar Infante grounded out.

Yost said he gave Butler the green light to swing on the 3-0 count.

"Down by four, yeah. Guy's got 40 hits off of Verlander, we're trying to get back in the game," Yost said. "It's probably gonna be the best he's gonna see in the at-bat. And it was a great pitch to hit, he just didn't get the bat head on it."

Butler is a career .405 (34-for-84) hitter against Verlander.

The Tigers doubled their lead with a five-run fifth inning against the pitching Colemans. Casey Coleman gave up four straight hits, prompting a switch to Louis Coleman. He surrendered a two-run homer to Kinsler.

The Royals' red-hot Nori Aoki had two singles off Verlander, going 2-for-3. After 11 hits in the three-game series against the White Sox, Aoki is 13 for his last 16 at-bats.

The Royals will have another shot at the Tigers before they know it. Saturday's game starts at noon CT.

"I think sleeping fast and getting back here early should help us out. Just get right back on that field and keep grinding it out," Vargas said.

"If we're going to think that this is going to get us down and this is going to decide the season, well, we've still got nine games left and we're pretty close. We need to come out and play a good ballgame tomorrow and forget about this one."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Aoki stays locked in with two knocks in loss

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KANSAS CITY -- One game into a crucial showdown with the first-place Tigers, and it's clear that, so far, only one thing carried over from the Royals' previous series: Nori Aoki's scorching bat.

Aoki, fresh off wreaking havoc on the White Sox, stood out in an otherwise forgetful 10-1 loss on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium that dropped the Royals to 1 1/2 games back in the American League Central race. Aoki's two singles made him the only KC hitter to collect more than one hit.

The outfielder extended his multi-hit streak to four games, while upping his average to .813 (13-for-16) in that span. He has reached base in 15 of his last 18 plate appearances.

Aoki said he could not recall a hotter personal streak. Whether in three years with MLB or in eight seasons with Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan.

"I don't think so, not to this extent," Aoki said through a translator. "I'm having good at-bats and I'm going in the right direction."

Things were not always so peachy for Aoki. As recent as Sunday, his slash line sat at an uninspiring .265/.333/.333. In just four games, that line has rocketed to .284/.351/.354.

As for what's spurred this turnaround, Aoki couldn't identify anything tangible. He said he feels his swing is different, but he could not identify anything mechanically that's changed. Although, Aoki credited hitting coach Dale Sveum for the extra time the two have spent in the cage.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Collins works perfect frame in return to Royals

Collins works perfect frame in return to Royals play video for Collins works perfect frame in return to Royals

KANSAS CITY -- Left-handed reliever Tim Collins was recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Friday, rejoining the Royals after an absence of more than 2 1/2 months.

Collins pitched in 23 games for Omaha, compiling a 2.76 ERA, a 2-1 record and three saves. He had 56 strikeouts and 16 walks in 42 1/3 innings.

For Kansas City this season, Collins was 0-3 with a 4.15 ERA in 18 games.

Collins went on the disabled list on April 7 with a left flexor strain and returned from an injury rehab assignment with Omaha on May 5.

On June 26, Collins was optioned to Omaha and was with the Storm Chasers through the rest of their Triple-A championship season, getting the save in their title game victory over Pawtucket on Tuesday.

"He'll just mix in with the guys that are down there," manager Ned Yost said. "He'll fit in with everybody else down there."

Collins had a back injury that kept him from being brought back as an early September callup.

"He was healed by then, but he was still a little rusty so we wanted him to get some more innings under his belt and he was throwing the ball really well," Yost said.

Collins was an integral part of the bullpen for three years, 2011-13, pitching in a total of 206 games with a 3.51 ERA.

Collins was used in Friday night's 10-1 loss to the Tigers, working a perfect ninth inning.

"It's getting close to the end of the season and they're in a playoff push, and I just want to, hopefully, make my mark and give myself a chance to extend the season with them," Collins said.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Royals Hall of Famer White returns to The K

Royals Hall of Famer White returns to The K

KANSAS CITY -- Former Royals star Frank White was back at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night for the first time since 2011.

White had not attended a game since a falling out with the Royals when he left their TV broadcasting team.

He and wife Teresa attended the game with friends Jim and Sonya Nutter. He declined a request from the Kansas City Star to be interviewed.

White's No. 20 is one of three numbers retired by the Royals along with George Brett's 5 and Dick Howser's 10. He is a member of the Royals Hall of Fame and won eight Gold Glove Awards at second base. There is a bronze statue of White in a fielding pose in the stadium's outfield walk.

The Star reported that White issued this statement:

"As you can imagine, this is an emotional situation for me. It has been a long time since I've been in the stadium. But I came tonight as a fan, at the invitation of Jim and Sonya Nutter. Teresa and I came out to be with Kansas City's amazing fans and to help cheer these young players on to victory.

"I had the privilege of coaching and managing and getting to know many of them. I really believe they've got the talent and the spirit to take us to those two places we haven't been in so long - the playoffs and the World Series.

"I am excited, for those young guys on the field, and for the all the people of Kansas City and Jackson County who have stuck with the Royals teams through thick and thin, and who have been rewarded, at long last with a season of good and exciting baseball."

White has been coaching for the Kansas City T-Bones, an independent team, and on Aug. 5 won a primary election for the Jackson County Legislature.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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KC's top Minors players on hand for big series

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KANSAS CITY -- Fourteen members of Kansas City's farm system, dressed in suits and ties, lined Kauffman Stadium's backstop watching the Royals take batting practice, undoubtedly envisioning themselves in the same spot one day.

Kansas City honored their 2014 Minor League award winners on Friday before the start of its pivotal series against the Tigers.

"I am absolutely ready to be here in uniform, this is where we want to all end up," said Hunter Dozier, the 2014 Class A Advanced Wilmington Player of the Year, 2013 Idaho Falls Player of the Year and the Royals' first-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

"It's a gorgeous ballpark, a great time to be here, fighting for a playoff spot, it's exciting around here."

On Sept. 4, Kansas City handed out Pitcher and Player of the Year honors for all seven levels of its developmental teams.

The pitchers honored were: Aaron Brooks (Triple-A Omaha), Andy Ferguson (Double-A Northwest Arkansas), Glenn Sparkman (Class A Advanced Wilmington), Jake Junis (Class A Lexington), Torey Deshazier (Rookie Advanced Idaho Falls), Nik Stephenson (Rookie Burlington), Yimaury Pena (Dominican Summer League).

The players honored, including Dozier, were: Whit Merrifield (Omaha), Lane Adams (Northwest Arkansas), Frank Schwindel (Lexington), Ryan O'Hearn (Idaho Falls), Logan Moon (Burlington), Meibrys Viloria (Dominican)

Adams is the only award winner on the Royals' roster.

"We had a lot of good players at Double-A, anyone could have had the award, but just to be chosen Player of the Year at Arkansas, it's a good honor and I'm happy to receive it," Adams said.

Of the 14 standouts, only Dozier cracked MLB.com's Top 20 Royals prospect list, ranked at No. 4.

"It's gonna be an unbelievable night ... Hopefully one day, we'll all be out here," Dozier said.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Royals pumped for big weekend set at The K

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KANSAS CITY -- The sun broke through the clouds in mid-afternoon on Friday, the temperature started rising and the Royals' big weekend series against the Tigers was underway.

"We haven't seen a series like this in Kansas City in a long, long time, so this is gong to be interesting, it's going to be exciting, it's going to be fun," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Even before the first pitch the Royals announced that only standing-room tickets remained for the three games between the American League Central title contenders.

The Royals hadn't done well in front of their last four crowds of 30,000-plus at Kauffman Stadium (three losses and one suspended game in which they were behind) but Yost shrugged that off as coincidence.

"We've got a chance to take care of our own destiny. The big crowds are going to be a big benefit for us, that's why it's called home-field advantage," Yost said. "When you've got a stadium full of people cheering for you, I think it's going to be fun. I don't think it's going to be an issue for these guys, I think they're going to embrace it."

Ace right-hander James Shields, who'll start Saturday's game for the Royals, felt the same way.

"I'm expecting some big things," Shields said. "I heard it was sold out all weekend and when The K is packed it gets real loud in here. Our fans have been great here all season long, especially this last month our fans have been right there with us and we definitely feel them out there. Just to feel that electric feeling out there is going to be great."

Designated hitter Billy Butler has been waiting seven years for a Royals season to come down to this.

"We've set ourselves up in a good position to go to the postseason, now we want to win the division. That's our main goal," Butler said. "We have to beat the team in front of us, and we have that opportunity.

"There's a different type of intensity when you're playing the Tigers. They've got the best of us this year in certain games, but we played them tough."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Moore's big gamble paying off for Royals

Trading four top prospects for Shields, Davis has put club over the hump

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Born in Wichita, Kan., in February 1967, Dayton Moore grew up a diehard Kansas City Royals fan, his interest piqued even after the family moved back East, thanks to summertime trips to visit his grandparents.

It was easy to be a Royals fan when Moore was growing up. He is from a generation that was treated to the success of a franchise that advanced to the postseason seven times in a 10-year stretch, capped off by winning the 1985 World Series championship.

By the time Moore was hired to be the general manager of his boyhood team back in June 2006, however, there was an entire generation of Royals fans who had never experienced the excitement of a pennant race, much less a postseason.

Moore's mission was to change that, and after 6 1/2 years of building -- refusing to sacrifice the future for hopes of immediate success -- Moore took his gamble. He sent four prospects to the Rays for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis in December 2012.

It was a risky move. The payoff, however, is in sight.

A late-season surge put the Royals on the fringe of the postseason battle a year ago in what was only their second winning season in the past 19 years.

This year, Kansas City heads into the final 10 days of the regular season very much a factor in the American League postseason race, and it is "Big Game James" Shields who the club is counting on to carry it into October for the first time since 1985.

The Royals will host the Tigers in a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium beginning on Friday night, trailing the Tigers by a half-game in the AL Central. Entering play Thursday, Kansas City also had a two-game lead on Seattle in the fight for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Given a chance to realign his rotation for the stretch drive thanks to Thursday's off-day, manager Ned Yost didn't hesitate to put Shields in position to pitch what could be the biggest game the franchise has played since Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

Jason Vargas (Friday) and Shields (Saturday) will stay on their regular rest in starts against the Tigers, with Jeremy Guthrie being pushed back two slots in the rotation to start on Sunday. The Tigers will counter with Justin Verlander on Friday, Max Scherzer on Saturday and Rick Porcello in the finale.

What the Royals' rotation revision does is set up Shields to start the Sept. 25 opener of a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox that will wrap up the regular season, and then be rested and ready to either start Game 1 of the AL Division Series, if the Royals overtake the Tigers to win the AL Central, or to make the start in the win-or-go-home AL Wild Card Game on Sept. 30 if Kansas City winds up a Wild Card.

Surprised? You shouldn't be.

This is the reason the Royals were willing to give up four well-regarded prospects in the trade for Shields and Davis, even though they knew that Shields would have the option to become a free agent after this season.

After a quarter of a century of waiting for a postseason return, even Moore -- whose background was in player development and scouting with the Braves -- was willing to roll the dice.

So far, so good.

Davis has morphed into a critical part of Kansas City's bullpen, providing the eighth-inning bridge to closer Greg Holland. The former starter has gone 9-2 with a 0.94 ERA in 66 appearances this season.

Shields has been as advertised when games matter the most.

It was never more obvious than Sept. 10 in Detroit. After losing the first two games to the Tigers, the Royals turned to Shields to avoid being swept, and he responded by tossing seven shutout innings in a 3-0 victory.

More than being 14-7 with a 3.15 ERA in 32 starts, Shields has gone 5-1 in his past nine starts, with Kansas City winning seven of those games. That includes two wins against the A's and one each against the Giants and Yankees, in addition to the strong-arm job he did on the Tigers in Detroit.

As for the four players the Royals gave up to acquire Shields and Davis … as the late Jim Fregosi so often put it, "There's a reason they call them prospects."

Jake Odorizzi has claimed a spot in the Rays' rotation this season and is 11-12 with a 3.98 ERA. Wil Myers, who won the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Award after being inserted in Tampa Bay's lineup last June, has been limited to 80 games this season because of a wrist injury. Power-hitting prospect Pat Leonard has spent the past two seasons at Class A, and lefty Mike Montgomery, who was drafted 36th overall in 2008, has not yet made it to the big leagues.

The Rays' payoff in this deal could still come.

The Royals, and their fans, however, have already waited long enough.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gordon using all tools to fuel Royals' playoff push

Sensational defense, strong arm, clutch hits have left fielder in AL MVP race

Gordon using all tools to fuel Royals' playoff push play video for Gordon using all tools to fuel Royals' playoff push

There are countless figures and anecdotes that underscore Alex Gordon's brilliance in left field -- like his Major League-leading 64 outfield assists since 2011, or Royals outfield coach Rusty Kuntz's proclamation that Gordon might be the best left fielder he's seen over roughly 35 years around MLB.

As a massive home series with the Tigers looms, one could even point to the integral role Gordon's exploits in left have played in the Royals heading into the final week-plus of the season just a half-game behind Detroit in the American League Central.

But to best appreciate Gordon's defensive genius and exceptional athleticism, look no further than a sly, innovative trick of his that eschews outfielder fundamentals.

When a baseball is hit down the line, Gordon often will field it, and instead of setting his feet and using a crow-hop to get power on his throw -- like most outfielders are taught -- he'll simply gather the ball and throw in one motion, a maneuver fit for an infielder.

This occurred on Aug. 26 when the Twins' Brian Dozier smacked what appeared to be a standup double down the left-field line. Somehow, Gordon got to the ball in foul territory and, using a jump throw, made it a close play. Gordon throw

"When it's down the line, my whole goal is to keep him at first," Gordon said. "I just put my head down and run as hard as I can to wherever I think it's going to be, and [I] get it and let go of it as quickly as I can."

Did Gordon learn this jump throw from Kuntz?

"Heck no!" Kuntz said. "But think about it. Where's his background? Third base. Ball down the line, he comes up -- whether it's the right foot or the wrong foot, I don't know. But when he does quick things like that, they remind me of when he played third base."

Gordon echoed this sentiment: "I think third base helped me with that, the quick release and the footwork."

The athleticism displayed on that play helped for a seamless transition from the hot corner to left field in 2011.

Gordon now profiles as the best defensive left fielder in the game on one of the best defensive clubs in MLB -- a factor the 30-year-old saw as paramount in Kansas City's chase for its first playoff appearance in 29 years.

"All nine guys take a lot of pride in it," Gordon said. "I think [general manager] Dayton [Moore] has built this team around pitching and defense, and really every position is really solid."

But no position is as solid as left field, where fangraphs.com credits Gordon with a 21.8 Ultimate Zone Rating, a figure that blows away his positional brethren. The next closest left fielder is Christian Yelich, at 13.8.

Kuntz sees some of these metrics and knows they derive from the full package Gordon possesses -- namely his strong, accurate arm; his infielder-like fielding instincts; and his range, akin to that of a center fielder's. Gordon catch

The defense gets most of the attention, but an indelible offensive moment helped insert Gordon's name into the AL Most Valuable Player Award discussion when he enthralled Kauffman Stadium with a walk-off home run in late August against the Twins. The Angels' Mike Trout seems like the safe bet to take home the award, but Gordon should contend this year after never finishing higher than 21st in the voting.

Gordon's .269/.351/.438 slash line is nothing to scoff at, but it's also not necessarily in line with a traditional MVP candidate's offensive numbers.

However, as Kuntz described, the concept of a traditional MVP candidate -- where average, home runs and RBIs reign supreme -- is being uprooted for a more all-around approach that encompasses defensive-minded players like Gordon.

"It's not just across the board where you go, 'OK, here's all the offensive numbers, who've you got for MVP?'" Kuntz said. "It's an accumulation of a lot of other things, and that's why I think -- even if his numbers don't stack up necessarily to a lot of those other guys -- the other things that he does are probably even more important than just walking up there and hitting a home run all the time."

While Gordon fights for AL MVP Award votes, prepares for arguably the biggest series of his eight-year Royals career and looks to end the longest postseason drought in the four major professional sports leagues, he also finds time to mentor outfielder Lane Adams, a September callup from Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

From the day Adams arrived in Kansas City on Sept. 1, Kuntz sent the rookie to study under Gordon, who's known for his meticulous preparation and care for his body.

"Rusty sat me down and said to me, 'Here's what you're going to do: first round of BP, you're going to stand behind Gordo. Stand on the warning track, get out of his way and just watch him take batting practice,'" Adams recalled.

Kuntz assigned Adams to Gordon because of the rarefied air in which he holds the left fielder.

"The best I've ever had," Kuntz said. "Period. As far as left fielders go, he's No. 1. That's the best left fielder I think I've ever seen. For sure, the best I've ever coached."

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ticket outfit apologizes for online sales snafu

Ticket outfit apologizes for online sales snafu

KANSAS CITY - After technical difficulties interfered with online sales of postseason ticket sales on Thursday, the Royals announced that representatives would be contacting purchasers affected by the glitch and the team's technology provider, Tickets.com, apologized for inconvenience caused to fans and the ballclub.

In a statement, the Royals said in part: "During this time some patrons experienced slower than expected checkout times, potentially resulting in errors completing transactions. Online customers who experienced technical difficulties in purchasing tickets for potential 2014 Postseason Wildcard and American League Division Championship games have been identified and will be contacted directly. Some patrons may have noticed pending charges attributed to their credit or debit cards from attempting to purchase tickets. While these normally clear in 7 to 10 business days, Tickets.com will work closely with the Royals and the appropriate credit card processors to expedite this process and ensure any funds held for abandoned transactions are released."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Aoki sets club mark for hits in a three-game series

No. 2 hitter goes 11-for-13 with a pair of walks

Aoki sets club mark for hits in a three-game series play video for Aoki sets club mark for hits in a three-game series

KANSAS CITY -- In Nori Aoki's final at-bat Wednesday -- after reaching base in 13 of his previous 14 trips to the plate and making a number of solid defensive plays in the Royals' 6-2 win -- the Royals fans let him hear it.

It started as a minor tremble in the bottom of the eighth, but by the time Aoki readied himself at the plate, Kauffman Stadium burst into a full-blown "NOR-I" chant.

"I definitely heard it and it made me want to get another [hit] there," Aoki said.

After being serenaded by the crowd, Aoki finally showed his humanity, recording only his second out in three games.

Aoki made Royals history with his 11th hit of the series, a liner into center field in the fourth inning, bypassing Willie Wilson (1980) and George Brett (1982) for most hits in a three-game series. Kansas City took two of three games against Chicago and Aoki finished 11-for-13 with a pair of walks.

"He's hotter than a firecracker. I mean, you can't explain it. Just like it's hard to explain when guys are cold. They just get hot and Nori is as hot as you can get," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

The slap-hitting left-hander did his damage Wednesday against lefty killer Chris Sale. All three of his hits came off Sale, including a first-inning double that was only the second extra-base hit Sale's allowed to left-handed batters all season.

Aoki churned out back-to-back four-hit games on Monday and Tuesday, and in the span of three games, he improved his slash line from .265/.333/.333 to .281/.349/.352.

"Watching him this series, he really put on a hitting clinic," Sale said. "What a series he had."

His outbreak comes on the heels of a change in the order.

On Saturday, Yost slid Aoki into the No. 2 spot for the first time this season. Since then, he's hit .619 (13-for-21), and his run of reaching base in 13 of 14 at-bats marked the first time a player has done that since San Diego's Kevin Kouzmanoff in 2009.

"He's really responded since he's in the two-hole. ... That's kind of what you hope happens when you make those kind of changes -- that guys can get going a little bit and create some offensive opportunities," Yost said. "But what Nori did in the three-game series here, no other Royal has ever one before, so it's pretty special."

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kansas City drops Sale, sits half-game back of Tigers

Cain, Escobar go deep against lefty; Ventura stellar for seven innings

Kansas City drops Sale, sits half-game back of Tigers play video for Kansas City drops Sale, sits half-game back of Tigers

KANSAS CITY -- So here came Chris Sale, usually tough on the Royals and pretty much everybody else, sashaying into Kauffman Stadium with his 12-3 record, 1.99 ERA and Cy Young aspirations.

And there he went after just five innings, giving up home runs to the Royals' Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar and absorbing the loss as the Chicago White Sox went down, 6-2, on Wednesday night.

Royals starter Yordano Ventura pitched seven innings for his 13th victory, second on the staff to James Shields' 14, to help Kansas City grab a series win.

The victory, combined with Detroit's loss at Minnesota, pulled the Royals to within one-half game of the first-place Tigers in the American League Central. The top two contenders square off in a three-game series this weekend at Kansas City.

The Royals also pulled even with the A's, who lost to Texas, for the top Wild Card. Kansas City and Oakland are two games ahead of the Seattle Mariners, who lost to the Angels, for the second Wild Card.

In Cain's view, the Royals' latest win should help against the Tigers, who have dominated them this season, winning 11 of 16 games.

"It can definitely turn things around," Cain said. "Facing Chris Sale is always tough. He's definitely one of the best in the game. But we did a great job of swinging the bats tonight, so facing Detroit here soon, the confidence should be high."

Sale had already beaten the Royals twice this season, giving up one run in 15 innings, so manager Ned Yost took care to pack his lineup with right-handed hitters against the tall left-hander. Another point in the Royals' favor: Of the six best hitters against Sale in his career, five were in the Royals' lineup, Cain and Escobar among them.

Wouldn't you know, it was Cain who belted a three-run homer off Sale in the third inning. The blast over the left-field wall followed singles by Escobar and the red-hot Nori Aoki.

"I'm looking heater and adjusting to offspeed," Cain said. "He's running it up there at 96 [mph], so look offspeed and a fastball is by you. But it was one of those hangers, he left it up and missed his spot and I put a good swing on it and it got out."

Strangely enough, it was the first time in his big league career that Sale had given up a home run on an 0-2 pitch.

Sale saw a fearsome focus on him from the Royals.

"They are fighting every game, every inning, every pitch," he said.

It became a four-run inning when Josh Willingham, in the lineup as designated hitter, drew a walk and then scored as Salvador Perez's two-out popup dropped between three White Sox fielders in short right field.

In the next inning, Escobar came to the plate with two outs and powered a 2-2 pitch over the left-field wall. It was his first home run since last May 11, or 409 at-bats ago.

Escobar has more hits off Sale than any Major League hitter -- he's 18-for-45 (.400) against him.

"I like to face lefty pitchers and that guy is one of the best lefties in the Major Leagues, but I feel comfortable, really good when he starts pitching to me," Escobar said. "Everybody's got one pitcher that he can see really good and you can really put the ball into play."

Aoki had a pretty good eye on Sale and all the White Sox pitchers in this series. He set a Royals record for most hits in a three-game series, going 11-for-13. He had four hits in each of the first two games of the series.

Ventura gave up just one run and three hits in his seven innings, retiring 10 straight batters at one point. He walked two, hit one and struck out seven.

The only run came in the third after the White Sox loaded the bases with no outs. After two singles, Marcus Semien squared to bunt and Ventura's pitch grazed his helmet. After Adam Eaton's sacrifice fly, Ventura ended the inning with two strikeouts.

"He's a kid that kinda likes these games," Yost said. "He wants that big game so that he can go out and do exactly what he did tonight."

There was some concern in the sixth inning when, after Alexei Ramirez's single, Ventura shook his pitching hand vigorously. That brought a concerned Yost and head trainer Nick Kenney rushing to the mound. It turned out to be a numbing sensation on his right thumb.

"I felt like it was a falling asleep-type sensation and once I was able to shake that off, it felt normal," Ventura said.

He finished that inning with a double-play grounder and went out to pitch the seventh with no further problems.

"I had an eagle eye on him and after the first hitter, I'm like, 'OK, he's going to be all right,' " Yost said.

And he was, but Sale was a different story. He got knocked around some.

"It shocks you when that happens," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "It just shows he's human. He'll bounce back. It's just that tonight wasn't his night."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Hawk, Stone provide soundtrack to Aoki's big series

White Sox announcers perplexed by Royals outfielder's 11-for-13 performance

Hawk, Stone provide soundtrack to Aoki's big series play video for Hawk, Stone provide soundtrack to Aoki's big series

Like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, the hits just kept coming for Nori Aoki.

The wily little right fielder was a ridiculous 11-for-13 with two walks to help the Royals take two out of three from the White Sox, moving K.C. within one-half game of the Tigers in the American League Central and into a tie with the A's for the top AL Wild Card spot. Aoki collected hits off six Chicago pitchers in the series to set a Kansas City record for most hits in a three-game set, and there wasn't a line drive in the bunch.

After rookie Chris Bassitt shattered Aoki's bat on a single that carried just over the infield on Tuesday, the White Sox broadcast team marveled at Aoki's success.

"Aoki now is 20-for-42 against us [this year]," Ken "Hawk" Harrelson said.

"Pretty amazing," said Steve Stone, "because I'm not sure he's hit any of them hard."

"I'm just trying to think, and I can't come up with one."

"Little loopers, little grounders."

"Ducksnorts."

Harrelson and Stone had a point -- at least in this series. Aoki's collection of hits against the White Sox included two infield singles, three bloop singles, five ground balls that found holes and one chopper over the infield.

They were the kind of hits that made pitchers hate facing Pete Rose and Wade Boggs, the ones that showed good things can happen when you get your bat on the ball. That's always been a beautiful thing about the game -- although that beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

Here's a rundown of Aoki's 11-hit series, with the soundtrack provided by Hawk and the Stone Pony.

MONDAY
• First inning, one out, nobody on, facing John Danks: Walk

• Third inning, man on first, two outs, facing Danks: Infield single to third base on a check swing

Steve: "An excuse-me swing and it keeps the inning alive."

Hawk: "And you can cancel the postgame show."

• Leading off the sixth inning against Danks: Ground-ball single up the middle, past Danks

(Before Aoki settled into the box, there was an exchange between the broadcasters.

"Three-nothing, good guys, bottom of the sixth inning on what has been a cloudy day in Kansas City," Harrelson said. "But the temperatures have been very comfortable. Starting to get a little chilly, 65 when the first pitch was thrown. Supposed to get down into the 50s. I think something similar for tomorrow as well."

"Tomorrow's supposed to be a sunny day," Stone said.

"My thing said cloudy. I have a couple new apps that are pretty good, My Radar and, of course, Bing. But my Weather Channel thing said cloudy. Hmmm.")

Hawk: "So here we go. Aoki, a walk, an infield, check-swing, excuse-me little ground ball down the third-base line, and that's the only hit they have. … And now, the only two hits."

Steve: "Aoki has had a lot of success against left-handers this year. One of the things he does is he stays around, chokes up on the bat and guides it right back through the middle. John reaches back with his pitching hand and cannot flag it down."

• Leading off the eighth inning against Zach Putnam: Infield single on a check swing, with third baseman Conor Gillaspie throwing wild to first trying to get Aoki.

Steve: "Aoki, perfect night tonight. He walked in the first, a couple of base hits in the third and the sixth. The outfield fairly shallow and straight away."

Hawk: "A contact-type hitter, a walk, a check, excuse-me-type swing, dribbler down the third-base line and a chopper up the middle. There's another excuse-me, but he throws it away."

Steve: "He had him if he gets off a good throw, but that being said, it will probably be a base hit and E-5, but we'll wait for the official scorer. It is a base hit and an E-5. … He had some time but threw it into the ground."

• Two outs, 3-3 tie, nobody on base in the ninth, against Jake Petricka: Opposite-field grounder just inside third base for a double, which would set up the winning run to score in dramatic fashion.

Hawk: "Aoki, 3-for-4 tonight, 3-for-3 with a walk. … And there's a double, just inside the line. His 20th two-bagger."

Steve: "Four hits tonight for Aoki. That fastball [was] right down the middle of the plate. The ball hit right inside the bag."

TUESDAY
• Facing Bassitt, first inning, nobody on: Groundout to shortstop Alexei Ramirez, whose throw barely beats Aoki to first.

• Third inning, man on first, no outs, facing Bassitt: Broken-bat single to right on a hit-and-run.

(Before that sequence, as Bassitt faced leadoff man Alcides Escobar, a resumption of Monday's conversation about the weather.

"Beautiful day here in Kansas City, beautiful night," Stone said. "Temperature in the low 70s."

"Just what my weather app said," said Harrelson.

"It said to stay in your room because you might get rain on your head."

"That's exactly what it said, and that's exactly what I did."

"It couldn't have been a better day … And he lost [Escobar], and it's a baserunning situation.")

Hawk: "Beautiful evening, beautiful evening here in the heart of Middle America. There he goes. And there's a broken-bat base hit. That's a typical Aoki hit right there. Escobar is sitting on third."

Steve: "That's absolutely the way Ned Yost has to work this offense. They have a few contact hitters. They have a lot of speedy baserunners. If you put them on, you're going to wind up in trouble. There's a hit-and-run. There's a shattered bat. And with runners on the corners, middle of the order coming up, this is dangerous for Chris Bassitt."

• Fourth inning, two outs, man on first, facing Bassitt: Opposite-field bloop single

Hawk: "And here is Aoki. … And that changeup just popped out there into left field. This man against us gets the softest base hits maybe of anybody I've ever seen."

Steve: "He just reaches out -- you're not going to strike him out too often -- and puts the bat on the ball. Runners at the corners, two outs."

• Sixth inning, man on second, one out, facing Matt Lindstrom: Opposite-field bloop single to drive in a run

Starts off hitting a line-drive foul.

Hawk: "Aoki has two hits tonight, four hits last night. Finally hits one hard, but it's foul."

Steve: "I don't know how he grounded out the first time up tonight."

Then. Crack of the bat.

Hawk: "And it's a 5-4 Kansas City lead."

Steve: "RBI 38, seemingly most of them against Sox pitching. And this is another attempt at a slider low and in, but he doesn't let it get there. Unbelievable run for Aoki."

• Eighth inning, two outs, nobody on, facing Ronald Belisario: Single grounded up the middle.

Hawk: "3-and-0, come back and get him. There's one. … Another base hit. Eight hits. Eight hits in this series."

Steve: "It's pretty amazing. You would think that one of these would go at somebody, but they haven't. "

WEDNESDAY
• First inning, one out, nobody on base against Chris Sale: Double, grounded just inside first base.

Steve: "Aoki can lay 'em down, and you might think against Chris Sale that's his game plan, but they're very close on the corners."

Hawk: "All he is is 8-for-9 in the first two games. [He's] 8-for-9, and only one of those hits may -- just may -- [hurt you] if it hit you. … And that's yanked. When you're hot, you're hot. So he will pull up with a double."

Steve: "One of the reasons why [Jose] Abreu was off the line is you never figure Aoki is going to pull the ball against Chris Sale. Sale got this ball inside, but not inside quite enough, and Aoki takes it right down the line."

Hawk: "Now 9-for-10."

• Third inning, one out, runner on first, facing Sale: single chopped over Gillaspie's head at third.

Hawk: "Look at this. When you are hot, you are hot. Wow. Wow."

Steve: "The sad part about this is you have to play a little shorter at third than you normally would, and when you do, this little bouncer goes right over the head of Conor Gillaspie."

Hawk: "So he is now 10-for-11 in the series."

• Fourth inning, two outs, nobody on base following Escobar's home run, facing Sale: Single swatted softly to center field.

Steve: "That will bring up Nori Aoki, who has swung a magic wand in this series. He's 10-for-11, tying him for the all-time record in any series … the all-time record as far as the Royals are concerned. When you're tying anything George Brett did, you're doing a pretty good job of it."

Crack

Steve: "He's now 11-for-12, that gives him the all-time Royals record in any series. It's been absolutely amazing to watch, because he's done it up the third-base line on a squibber, down the third-base line, broken bats, that one into center field, and he's 3-for-3."

• Sixth inning, two outs, nobody on, facing Maikel Cleto: Walk

• Eighth inning, one out, nobody on base, facing Lindstrom: Groundout to Gillaspie.

In the background, the Kauffman Stadium crowd is chanting "Nori, Nori, Nori."

Hawk: "That is sucked up, so two outs."

Steve: "A standing ovation for Aoki and what he accomplished in this series."

Hawk: Silence

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Royals put Colon on disabled list

Move gives Kansas City flexibility to add player for postseason

Royals put Colon on disabled list play video for Royals put Colon on disabled list

KANSAS CITY -- To gain more flexibility in possible postseason roster moves, the Royals on Wednesday placed infielder Christian Colon on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sept. 7.

Colon has a fractured distal tip in his middle right finger, sustained while fielding a ground ball at third base, and has not played since Sept. 2.

If the Royals reach the postseason and Colon is not healthy, the move means that he could be replaced on the active roster by a player who was not on the 40-man roster prior to Sept. 1. Colon could not be replaced if he were not on the DL, assistant general manager Dean Taylor explained.

Similarly, pitcher Luke Hochevar could be replaced by another player because of his time on the 60-day disabled list following elbow surgery. That opens the way for a player such as pitcher Brandon Finnegan, who wasn't added to the 40-man roster until Sept. 1.

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{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Role model Hosmer nominated for Clemente Award

Role model Hosmer nominated for Clemente Award play video for Role model Hosmer nominated for Clemente Award

KANSAS CITY -- First baseman Eric Hosmer was named the Royals' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award on Tuesday.

The Clemente Award pays tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who best represent the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

Each of the 30 clubs nominated a player, and Wednesday marks the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente's legacy and officially recognize local club nominees.

"Anytime you're nominated for an award at this level, it's a tremendous honor," Hosmer said. "It was named after Roberto. It's tremendous to be named in the same sentence as him.

"We're in a position where people and kids in the city look up to you and you remember being in their shoes one day, so you realize the position you're in, and it seems surreal for all of us."

Hosmer's involvement with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City (BBBSKC) since 2012 helped him garner the honor.

"You just want to try and set a good example for these kids, and basically just try and do things the right way, so anytime you get recognized for something like this, it means you're doing that," Hosmer said.

The four-year veteran recently hosted the charity event "Uncork for a Cause," which benefited the Greater Kansas City Fire Fighters Local 42 Community Assistance organization. Royals players Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, Greg Holland, Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain were among the many who attended the event.

"It was a good turnout, raised a lot of money. I can't thank my teammates enough for being there," Hosmer said. "There aren't many evenings where you're free, and you have a free schedule for the night, so for most of the guys to be out there -- and especially with the guys that have families -- for them to still make it out there and support me and support my family in that event, it really did mean a lot to us."

Clemente, a 15-time All-Star and Hall of Famer, died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve of 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Carlos Beltran was the winner of the 2013 Roberto Clemente Award. There were more than 1.3 million fan votes last year, and fans can start voting again Wednesday at ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media. Voting ends on Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered to win a trip to next month's World Series.

The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by a selection panel of dignitaries. Clubs playing at home on Wednesday will recognize their nominees as part of Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies, while visiting clubs will honor their nominees before another September home game. As part of the league-wide celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo will appear on the bases and the official dugout lineup cards.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["replay" ] }

Abreu's stolen base overturned by Royals' challenge

Abreu's stolen base overturned by Royals' challenge play video for Abreu's stolen base overturned by Royals' challenge

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals began their rubber match with the White Sox on Wednesday night by winning a challenge.

In the top of the first with two outs, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu reached on a walk and took off for second when a Yordano Ventura pitch got away from catcher Salvador Perez. Perez fired to second, but second base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Abreu beat the throw.

However, Royals manager Ned Yost challenged the call.

Replay officials in New York overturned it, and Abreu was the third out of the inning. Replay showed that Abreu's right foot did indeed arrive to the bag before the tag, but as Abreu continued his slide, his left foot came off the bag while Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar continued to apply the tag.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["replay" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }

Duffy set for Monday after issue-free simulated game

Duffy set for Monday after issue-free simulated game play video for Duffy set for Monday after issue-free simulated game

KANSAS CITY -- Danny Duffy had no shoulder problems in a four-inning simulated game on Tuesday, and the Royals left-hander is in line to start on Monday night at Cleveland.

"It went well," Duffy said. "I tried to make it as much like a game situation as I could. I felt normal. I felt better than normal, so I'm very happy with the way it went."

Duffy threw all four of his pitches -- fastball, curveball, slider, changeup -- and totaled about 60 tosses in the workout.

"It was very good -- mixed in a couple slidesteps, had some guys off balance," Duffy said. "Gio [Johnny Giavotella] squared one off on me, but other than that, I felt real good.

"In a [real] game, the hitters would be a lot more aggressive. A couple guys didn't swing once. But that's why you need to pound the zone. It was nice. After the first inning, I really locked in and felt like it was a game situation."

Duffy has missed three starts, including the one in New York in which he left after just one pitch because of shoulder inflammation. Right-hander Liam Hendricks replaced him that day, and he also started against Boston last Thursday and against Chicago on Tuesday night.

For Duffy's outing on Tuesday, he sat down for five minutes between innings to simulate a normal game.

"He threw good -- really good stuff," manager Ned Yost said. "Threw some good curveballs, some good changeups, good fastballs. Just erratic with his command. He'll have another side session to iron it out and be ready to go against Cleveland."

Duffy would be set up for two more regular-season starts.

"It came out better today than it has in the last month or so," he said. "So I'm really happy where I'm at now, and I'm very glad that we have the training staff that we do. I'm itching to get back out there and get going."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Royals miss chance despite plethora of pitchers

Two of nine, Herrera, Davis falter in team's longest nine-inning game

Royals miss chance despite plethora of pitchers play video for Royals miss chance despite plethora of pitchers

KANSAS CITY -- Long game? No problem if you win. Long game? Agonizingly slow and painful if you lose. That was the Royals' fate Tuesday night, as they lost the longest nine-inning game in their history.

It took them 4 hours and 16 minutes to lose, 7-5, to the Chicago White Sox, with 28,904 fans streaming into Kauffman Stadium in hopes of seeing more pennant race drama. There was no magical comeback this time.

"Oh, man. What a long game. Way too long," said Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar.

Way too long if you lose. Especially when first-place Detroit had lost at Minnesota and there was a chance to close the gap in the American League Central to a half-game. Instead, the Royals remained 1 1/2 behind the Tigers.

In the AL Wild Card race, the Royals are the leading team for the second spot -- one game behind Oakland and one game ahead of Seattle.

With just 12 games left (including a suspended game), Royals manager Ned Yost departed from his usual bullpen formula, using Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis earlier than normal. It didn't work, and both relievers had their long scoreless streaks end in the White Sox's decisive three-run seventh inning.

"Just trying to find a way to win a ballgame," Yost said. "The days are countin' down, and we're just trying to find a way to win a game."

The successful formula has been: Herrera in the seventh inning, Davis in the eighth inning and Greg Holland (when he's been healthy) in the ninth. Usually, too, they come in at the top of the inning. But on Tuesday night, Yost altered it a bit.

The score was 4-4 in the sixth inning when rookie Brandon Finnegan had two outs with one runner on base. Yost opted to bring in Herrera, who walked a batter and then got the third out.

The Royals scored a run in the sixth -- Escobar singled, stole second base and raced home on Nori Aoki's single -- one of his four hits -- for a 5-4 lead.

But then Herrera gave up two singles, to Josh Phegley and Adam Eaton (one of his four hits), to start the seventh. Yost was asked if perhaps the unaccustomed long wait between innings affected Herrera.

"It quite possibly could have," Yost said. "I couldn't believe it. I looked up in the eighth inning or ninth inning and saw it was 11 [o'clock]."

Herrera got a force for the first out, and with runners at the corners, Davis was waved into the fray. No problem on his part.

"I was perfectly OK with that," Davis said. "I was comfortable, confident the whole time. I just didn't make the pitches I needed to make to keep the game where it was, and it ended up costing us some runs."

Facing dangerous Jose Abreu, Davis walked the slugger on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.

"We just wanted to make pitches that were very competitive and nothing he could get extended on and hit a ball out of the ballpark," Davis said. "So I was OK with the walk right there."

But he wasn't OK with what happened next. Conor Gillaspie lined a three-run triple into the right-center-field gap.

"The [triple] was a good pitch to hit. The other ones, I had no chance at even touching them," Gillaspie said. "Guys make mistakes and you have to take advantage of it. He's got the best reliever stuff of anybody in the game, in my opinion."

Davis wasn't happy with his pitches, though.

"That whole at-bat, I just didn't make the pitches I needed to make to get out of that inning, and that put us in a bad spot," he said.

Yes, because this time the Royals couldn't generate anything like the footloose magic that gave them a walk-off victory in Monday night's series opener.

Two of the runs were charged to Herrera and one to Davis, so the two longest scoreless streaks going in the Major Leagues were ended. Davis had gone 31 2/3 innings without giving up a run, and Herrera was right behind at 30 2/3. Both streaks started on June 27.

Davis said both of them were prepared for a change in their routine down the stretch.

"We knew that situation could occur," Davis said. "I knew when Kel went back out that there could be a chance I would be in that inning, and I was fully ready to go in."

As it happened, the Royals never did get to Holland, now recovered from a tight triceps and ready to go. But they did use nine pitchers, a club record for a nine-inning game.

Right-hander Liam Hendriks started for the Royals in place of Danny Duffy and was pulled with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth inning. He was charged with four runs and seven hits.

"I needed to throw my pitches with a little more authority. I was tentative with some of those pitches, and it showed," Hendriks said. "I mean, they took some good pitches and they swung at my bad ones and hit them well."

That was just the start of what would be a historically long evening for the Royals.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Vargas, Shields moved up in shuffled rotation

Vargas, Shields moved up in shuffled rotation play video for Vargas, Shields moved up in shuffled rotation

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals switched up their rotation on Tuesday to maximize their pitching matchups for the final 12 games of the regular season -- and possibly beyond.

Kansas City slid Jeremy Guthrie, originally slated to start Friday's series opener against the division-leading Tigers, to Sunday's series finale, and bumped up Jason Vargas and James Shields to keep them on normal rest.

Vargas now takes Guthrie's place Friday, while Shields will start Saturday's showdown with the American League Central leaders.

With an off-day Thursday, the move allows Vargas and Shields to continue to pitch every fifth day, and it also provides Royals manager Ned Yost with some favorable matchups as his team nears the postseason.

First, it forces the lefty-heavy Indians lineup to face both of the Royals' left-handed pitchers -- Vargas and Danny Duffy -- in their three-game series beginning Monday.

"Everybody stays on their regular rest but Guthrie," Yost said. "It gets Guthrie, who has good games in Chicago [into the series vs. the White Sox the last weekend of the regular season]. It gets us two left-handers against Cleveland, which is what we wanted."

More importantly -- but also hypothetically -- the move puts the Royals' rotation in better shape should they qualify for the postseason, whether that's via the AL Wild Card Game or if they can overthrow the Tigers for the AL Central crown and advance directly to the AL Division Series.

Yost described how the rotation would be prepared for a possible tiebreaker or with the AL Wild Card Game.

"It sets up Vargy for a one-game playoff or Shields one day early. We can make our mind up there," Yost said. "It'd be Vargy on full rest or Shields coming back on a [fourth day]."

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Hayes' late homer lifts Omaha to Triple-A title

Hayes' late homer lifts Omaha to Triple-A title play video for Hayes' late homer lifts Omaha to Triple-A title

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As the final out of the Triple-A Championship Game landed in right fielder Brett Eibner's glove Tuesday night, Triple-A Omaha stormed out of the third-base dugout at BB&T Ballpark. The Storm Chasers had defeated Pawtucket, 4-2, to win their second straight title.

Near the pitcher's mound, the Omaha mob absorbed the battery of closer Tim Collins and catcher Brett Hayes. It kept moving toward Eibner, a jumping, jubilant mass of national champions.

The celebration came after a long night of baseball for the Storm Chasers. They quickly fell behind, as Rusney Castillo, the Red Sox's newly signed center fielder, homered off Christian Binford on the first pitch of the game. Then, after they had taken a 2-1 lead, they had to endure a rain delay that lasted one hour and 46 minutes. When the game finally resumed, Travis Shaw homered for Pawtucket in the sixth to tie the game.

But the Storm Chasers wouldn't be denied. In the seventh, Hayes hit a two-out, two-run home run to put them back in the lead. It proved to be the decisive hit and earned him MVP honors.

Hayes, who began the year as the Royals' backup catcher before getting sent to Omaha in August, finished the night 2-for-4 with a double and two runs. Manager Brian Poldberg said Hayes has been critical to the Storm Chasers' success since he joined the team.

"[He] came down here and didn't feel sorry for himself," Poldberg said. "He was one of the key guys that did a great job with the pitching staff, and he got some big hits for us."

Hayes said he felt good at the plate Tuesday.

"I just tried to take that same approach I've had since I got back here," he said. "Really my approach is up the middle, and I was able to get the head of the bat out and take a good swing and was fortunate enough to go out."

Pawtucket had mounted several dramatic comebacks this season, but was unable to do so again after Hayes' homer. Right-hander Andrew Triggs and Collins combined for three scoreless innings to finish off the victory.

Though Pawtucket lost, manager Kevin Boles said he congratulated his players when he addressed them after the game.

"It's a great season for these guys -- couldn't be prouder of them," he said. "They were consistent with what they brought to the ballpark every day, and they definitely made our jobs easier as staff members."

For Omaha, Tuesday's victory just added to a burgeoning trophy case. In the last four years, the Storm Chasers have won the Pacific Coast League three times and now can claim back-to-back championships.

Omaha CEO Gary Green credited the Royals for his team's recent successes.

"This doesn't happen by accident," he said. "The Royals obviously have the best Minor League system in all of baseball."

While Hayes was named the game's MVP, the latest gems in the Royals' system were on display Tuesday night. Binford, the club's representative in this year's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, started the game and held Pawtucket to one run in three innings. Right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, picked up the victory. He struck out four batters and allowed one hit -- a home run -- in two innings of relief. Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, the Royals' No. 15 prospect, went 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs.

The playoff success was especially meaningful for Zimmer. He spent almost the whole year in Arizona rehabbing from injuries. After being away from a competitive environment all season, he was happy to join his friends in Omaha for the playoffs.

"It was a long time down there [in Arizona]," Zimmer said. "For what looked like it was going to be sort of a wasted year, to be able to come out of it and experience this whole playoff run and national championship is amazing."

Hayes said the success the Storm Chasers have had, even as they mixed young prospects with veterans, is a result of the winning foundation the Royals have established in their farm system.

"You learn how to win here," Hayes said. "They've won a lot of championships in lower levels and they play the game right. It's just a good organization to play for."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"content":["walkoff" ] }

Royals' running men spark wild walk-off victory

Dyson scores on wild pitch, while Cain's infield hit plates Gore to win it

Royals' running men spark wild walk-off victory play video for Royals' running men spark wild walk-off victory

KANSAS CITY -- Imagine this: two swift pinch-runners scoring from second base -- without the ball leaving the infield. And in the ninth inning to win a game. A very important game.

It seemed almost magical to the Royals, who unleashed Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore on the Chicago White Sox to pull out a 4-3 walk-off victory on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium. The upshot was that Kansas City was able to stay within 1 1/2 games of first-place Detroit in the American League Central. The Royals also moved within one game of the A's for the top AL Wild Card and strengthened their hold on the second Wild Card, opening a two-game lead on the Mariners.

"Magic was in the air, that's right," Gore said.

"I always want to be in the moment, man," Dyson said.

These two guys just might be the fastest players in the baseball. Who's to say?

Never mind that, though, it's immaterial. This is about the Royals staying in the postseason chase. For most of Monday night, they'd looked dead and gone. Obituaries were being composed. It had been a lively run but, well, too bad.

And then everything at Kauffman Stadium kicked into blazing action on the legs of two swift pinch-runners, Dyson and Gore, in a ninth-inning frenzy.

"We never hang our heads and we keep battling," Dyson said. "Like tonight, we got behind, but we were able to make some things happen late in the game and the speed was key for us at the end."

Was it ever.

Trailing 3-2, the Royals' ninth began with right-hander Jake Petricka retiring Omar Infante. But Mike Moustakas drilled a double down the left-field line and Dyson went into run for him. Alcides Escobar bounced into the second out and then trouble enveloped Petricka.

Dyson, who had been picked off in a similar situation last Tuesday night at Detroit, nevertheless was off and running on the first pitch to Nori Aoki.

"Dice is daring, Dice has got larceny in his blood," manager Ned Yost said.

Petricka's delivery to Aoki bounced away from catcher Tyler Flowers and rolled to the screen, and Dyson was steaming into third base.

"I had to round it real hard because I was still in stride and I knew it kicked away from him so I had to keep going," Dyson said. "When I looked up, he still had his back turned to me so I kept going."

It was scored a stolen base and a wild pitch, the score was 3-3 and now Aoki lined a double into left field, his fourth hit. Gore, groomed in the Minors this summer for this job, was sent to pinch-run for Aoki.

On an 0-2 pitch, Lorenzo Cain hit a bouncer past Petricka and shortstop Alexei Ramirez couldn't handle it.

"I was definitely going to be safe," Cain said. "I pretty much put it in play and ran. They bobbled it and Gore was able to score."

Gore, off with the pitch, was going full throttle and headed for home to end the game with third-base coach Mike Jirschele urging him on.

"When I stole, I saw that he hit the ball and saw that he was charging the ball, and I had no doubt in my mind that Cain was going to be safe," Gore said. "So I was like, 'I'm going anyway no matter what.'"

And with that the crowd of 21,290 rocked the stadium and the Royals converged in a pile of celebration on the field with Dyson and Gore at the bottom.

"It's awesome, it's great," Gore said, laughing. "It hurts a little, but it's nice."

Two runners scoring from second base without a ball leaving the infield?

"I can't say I've seen it twice in one inning, but there it was," Petricka said.

All of that excitement came after the Royals dragged through six innings against left-hander John Danks. The lefty had not won in his last eight starts, but this was different. He was facing the Royals and his career record against them was 6-0 with a 2.58 ERA. Four of the wins had come at Kauffman.

"I don't know what it is with Danks and this park here but we can't do anything with him, he just shuts us down," Yost said. "We had a few opportunities, and couldn't capitalize."

When Danks departed after six innings, the Royals had just two hits and trailed, 3-0.

Royals starter James Shields gave up three runs, 10 hits and no walks in his seven innings. Not that he was hit very hard.

"They found a lot of holes, especially in the infield," Shields said. "I was executing my pitches the way I needed to and it's unfortunate they were finding holes, but they did."

The Royals picked up a run in the seventh off right-hander Javy Guerra on Eric Hosmer's double and Infante's single. They got a second run in the eighth off righty Zach Putnam. Aoki got a chop hit that third baseman Conor Gillaspie threw past first base. Aoki took second and scored as Alex Gordon dropped an RBI single into center field.

That made it 3-2 and, just maybe, magic was in the air and speed was on the bases.

"At the end of the day," Dyson said with his slogan, "that what speed do right there."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["walkoff" ] }

Aoki on top of his game to spark Royals' win

Aoki on top of his game to spark Royals' win play video for Aoki on top of his game to spark Royals' win

KANSAS CITY -- After nights like Monday, it's easy to understand why the Royals thought highly enough of Nori Aoki to part ways with a talented left-handed pitcher to acquire the outfielder last winter.

Aoki, who was brought to Kansas City to infuse his speed and on-base abilities at the top of the order, discovered his full potential at the most opportune time. The slap-hitting lefty reached base five times, sparking the Royals' thrilling 4-3 walk-off win over the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

"I was able to get on base five times today, so this is the type of game I envisioned and hopefully I can keep it up from here," Aoki said through translator Kosuke Inaji.

Aoki's ninth-inning double led to the winning run and a victory Kansas City so desperately needed after dropping six of its previous nine games. Aoki finished 4-for-4 with a walk in his first four-hit game with the Royals, who remained 1 1/2 games back of the Tigers in the American League Central and two games ahead of the Mariners for a Wild Card spot.

"Nori's been swinging the bat extremely well for us of late," manager Ned Yost said. "We need guys to step up and swing the bat well for us and Nori's doing a good job of it."

Aoki collected his hits in an unorthodox fashion. Two of them did not escape the infield. They also came on some dubious check swings by Aoki, where he hardly looked interested in making contact with the ball.

"It might be a new kind of bunt," Aoki said.

Aoki's final hit was more traditional: a low, slicing, opposite-field double down the left-field line for his 20th two-bagger of the season. It came two pitches after Jarrod Dyson tied the game when he swiped third base, then scored on a wild pitch.

Aoki did his damage from the two-hole, a spot that Yost inserted him into for the first time this season on Saturday and has kept him since. Aoki collected a pair of hits in that game, a 7-1 win over Boston.

"That's why skip made a change," said outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who delivered the infield walk-off hit that scored pinch-runner Terrance Gore. "Just trying to switch things get our speed guys up at the top.

"It worked out well tonight."

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Royals showing grit, determination down the stretch

Royals showing grit, determination down the stretch play video for Royals showing grit, determination down the stretch

This is why we love September. There's a season riding on every inning. At least it feels that way. Go ask the Kansas City Royals.

Here's hoping they remind themselves that these might be the most fun days they ever have in baseball. This is what Royals owner David Glass had in mind when he hired Dayton Moore to be his general manager eight years ago.

Glass stuck with his guy and believed in him when it wasn't the most popular position in Kansas City. That's because he understood that Moore was doing exactly what he'd been instructed to do. That is, he was constructing, not just a team, but an entire baseball operation.

These Royals weren't an overnight success -- eight years is about two lifetimes in the life of a baseball executive -- but here the Royals are, positioned nicely to make their first playoff appearances in 29 years.

There's torture in September baseball. There's plenty of pleasure, too. Those players experiencing it for the first time will remember it forever.

"I love September," James Shields has said about a dozen times the last couple of weeks.

Shields is one of the ones who has been there, during his days with the Rays. He gets it.

It's completely consuming. Players and coaches count down the hours until they get back to the ballpark, and then they watch the scoreboard and grind out the game and play with the kind of intensity they probably never knew existed.

When it's over -- whenever that is -- they'll be absolutely exhausted. That's the thing every player who has been through one of these things said. Jeff Kent was the first I heard say it. He didn't even realize how tired he was until it was over, and then he felt like sleeping for three days.

Others have talked about the same thing. They remember it as being a wonderful experience, because it's a group of players and coaches completely united to achieve one goal. Doesn't matter what happened in June or July. All that matters is now.

But it's more than that. It's the people in the ticket office and in public relations. It's fans, too, caring more than they thought they could care again. They're living and dying with every inning, every pitch.

And so on Monday night, the Royals played one of those games in which an entire season of hope flashed before their eyes. They began the day having lost five of seven to slip to 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central. With Detroit having won six of seven at the beginning of the day, Kansas City understood what's at stake.

At the moment, it appears that four teams -- A's, Mariners, Royals and Tigers -- are fighting for three spots in the AL playoffs. Oakland appears to have a slightly easier schedule, but that stuff means absolutely nothing in September when a team's will and resolve is tested.

And so the Royals played one of those games Monday night that could end up being a springboard back to the postseason. The Royals trailed the White Sox, 3-0, after six innings and 3-1 after seven. It was 3-2 when Kansas City came to bat in the ninth inning.

Winning time? The Tigers had rallied to win. That was flashed on the scoreboard. The Mariners were losing to the Angels.

Mike Moustakas doubled with one out to put the tying run in scoring position. There's some symmetry here, because he was one of the first heralded Draft picks by Moore, a first-rounder in 2007.

If you went back and charted all the ups and downs of the last three years for the Royals, Moustakas would be a primetime figure in plenty of the discussions.

Royals manager Ned Yost then made the first of two important decisions he would make in the ninth inning when he sent Jarrod Dyson out to run for Moustakas.

Magic ensued after Alcides Escobar grounded out for the second out of the inning. With Nori Aoki batting, Dyson broke for third and sprinted right on home with the tying run when White Sox reliever Jake Petricka's throw bounced in the dirt and past catcher Tyler Flowers.

It ended quickly after that. Aoki doubled, and Yost went to his bench for another pinch-runner, this one Terrance Gore. Lorenzo Cain got him home with an infield roller for a 4-3 victory.

The Royals poured from the dugout and celebrated as if they'd just won the pennant. Yost used 17 players in all, including the two pinch-runners.

Meanwhile, the Mariners lost, and the Athletics had the day off. The Royals are still 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central, but they have a two-game lead over the Mariners with 13 to play for an AL Wild Card berth.

If you're thinking that the pressure is now on the Mariners, you're wrong. The pressure is on all of 'em. Teams don't get in this position very often, and when they're close enough to see it and touch and dream it, they've got to finish it. Anything less would be crushing.

For the Angels and Orioles, it may be about beginning to make postseason plans. For the Tigers, Royals, A's and Mariners, it's about survival.

So that's what the Royals did. They proved again that they're a tough, resilient team, a team of guys made of the right stuff. And they get to do it all over again on Tuesday.

Here's to two more weeks of tension, drama and thrills. There are few things better.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Zimmer shining in relief role with Triple-A Omaha

Royals' No. 2 prospect helps Storm Chasers reach National Championship Game

Zimmer shining in relief role with Triple-A Omaha play video for Zimmer shining in relief role with Triple-A Omaha

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, spent almost all of the 2014 season at the club's Spring Training complex. For much of the year, he couldn't throw a baseball.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. After an impressive first full professional season in 2013, Zimmer, ranked No. 48 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, was supposed to have a chance to reach the Major Leagues and maybe help during the pennant race.

Instead, Zimmer spent much of the year rehabbing, first from bicep tendinitis and then a lat injury. The injuries limited him to just 4 2/3 innings at the end of the season with Rookie-level Idaho Falls. Zimmer then joined Triple-A Omaha's bullpen for the playoffs.

Zimmer has thrown four scoreless innings for the Storm Chasers, helping them win the Pacific Coast League and reach Tuesday's Triple-A National Championship Game against Pawtucket, the International League champions.

Zimmer said he is enjoying his new role and being a part of Omaha's playoff run.

"It was a long year in Arizona throughout the whole rehab process," he said. "But everything happens for a reason, and I feel like I came out stronger. I'm excited to be back playing and in this environment."

This is Zimmer's first experience as a reliever, but he has excelled in the role. He has struck out four batters and held opponents to one hit and one walk in the playoffs. Manager Brian Poldberg said Zimmer could appear in Tuesday's game.

Poldberg was the manager at Double-A Northwest Arkansas last year, and he got to see Zimmer at his most dominant. The veteran Minor League manager said Zimmer threw one of the best games he'd ever seen in Double-A when he struck out 12 batters in six scoreless innings last July at Springfield.

Now, Poldberg is starting to see Zimmer return to that level.

"Each time, it's gotten a little bit better -- his rhythm, quality of fastball," Poldberg said. "I'm glad to see that he's getting that. But the good thing is the next day, when we ask him how he feels, there's nothing there. That's the thing I'm concerned about."

Zimmer will soon go back to starting. After Tuesday's game, he said he will head back to Arizona to continue building up innings. Then Zimmer could make a few starts in the Arizona Fall League before heading to the Dominican Republic for winter ball.

Zimmer said he is looking forward to the opportunity to pitch in the Dominican Republic, and he's excited to experience a strong competitive environment after spending most of this year away from games.

"I've heard everybody down there is there to win," Zimmer said. "People have told me it's pretty similar compared to the Major Leagues in terms of competitive environment and talent and atmosphere."

First, however, Zimmer is hoping for the chance to pitch one more time for Omaha and help his new teammates win the National Championship Game.

"I'll be ready to go, and hopefully [I can] get in there and get some outs," he said.

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

Butler returns to DH in opener vs. White Sox

Butler returns to DH in opener vs. White Sox play video for Butler returns to DH in opener vs. White Sox

KANSAS CITY -- The Billy Butler shuffling act continued on Monday night.

Butler, absent from the Royals' lineup in seven of their previous nine games, returned to his familiar designated hitter role in a 4-3 walk-off win over the White Sox.

Butler, who went 0-for-3, has just one hit in his last 29 at-bats. This includes a recent 0-for-11 slide.

"We've talked to him. He knows he's not producing right now to a level he's accustomed to producing," manager Ned Yost said before the win. "He's been great through all this. He's been on the bench rooting, he's been great."

Butler played in only one of Kansas City's four games vs. the Red Sox in the club's most recent series. The Royals lost three of those games at Kauffman Stadium.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Owner Glass hosts youth state champs squad

Owner Glass hosts youth state champs squad

KANSAS CITY -- A group of title-winning 13-year-old baseball players were the guests of Royals owner David Glass on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.

They're the Naturals of Bentonville, Ark., winners of the USSSA-AAA state championship.

"We contacted Mr. Glass and this is what the boys wanted to do, come up here and celebrate the season," said team manager Chris Roehl.

The Royals' Double-A affiliate is the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in the Texas League.

"We helped pull this together and Mr. Glass has been very generous with his time and his team. This is a good celebration," said John Aden, one of the parents.

A traveling team, the young Naturals played more than 60 games en route to the title.

"They're 13-year-olds from Northwest Arkansas and they won the state championship -- and they're big Naturals fans, obviously," Glass said. "So they get to come up and tour the facilities and see the Royals-Red Sox game.

"And they're about as excited as 13-year-old kids can get. Wouldn't it be great to be 13 again and win the state championship and have all that excitement and then get to come up here and do this?"

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Brooks pitches Triple-A Omaha to PCL title

KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Aaron Brooks pitched a complete-game two-hitter as Triple-A Omaha beat the Reno Aces, 4-0, on Sunday to win the Pacific Coast League Championship Series, 3-2.

Brooks, who struck out nine and walked two, was named Most Valuable Player of the PCL playoffs with a 3-0 record and a 0.75 ERA.

Catcher Brett Hayes drove in two runs for the Storm Chasers.

The Storm Chasers, Kansas City's longtime Triple-A affiliate, have won three titles in the last four years. Now they'll face the Pawtucket PawSox for the Triple-A National Championship on Tuesday night in Charlotte, N.C.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Bullpen hiccup costs Royals ground in Central race

Crow gives up go-ahead slam as KC falls 1 1/2 games behind Detroit

Bullpen hiccup costs Royals ground in Central race play video for Bullpen hiccup costs Royals ground in Central race

KANSAS CITY -- This is definitely not what the Royals had in mind when the lowly Boston Red Sox came into town for four games. Not three losses.

Yet that's what happened as the Red Sox, with an 8-4 victory on Sunday afternoon, took three of four games in the series, putting a crimp into the Royals' postseason aspirations.

Kansas City was on top of the American League Central by one game when Boston arrived. With Detroit completing a sweep at Cleveland on Sunday, the Royals now trail the first-place Tigers by 1 1/2 games while leading the race for the second AL Wild Card spot by one game.

"Do I think this is going to cause us to fade?" losing pitcher Jason Vargas said. "No, but we need to play better ball, that's for sure, because we're running out of games. When we've had success, we've played top to bottom good ball, and that's what we have to do."

The Royals have lost six of their last nine games. Fourteen games remain -- including a suspended game with Cleveland that they're losing, 4-2, going into the bottom of the 10th.

"You never expect to lose three out of four, especially this late in the season when time's winding down," said Eric Hosmer. "But it's nothing that this team hasn't been through before. We can bounce back from this. There's still time left. ... Two weeks doesn't seem like a long time, but it really is in baseball."

Two big home runs carried the Red Sox on a pleasant 70-degree afternoon with 19,065 fans at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals' reconfigured batting order, which worked so well in Saturday night's 7-1 victory, was tried again. And it worked quickly again, although not in the first inning this time. No, Royals fans had to wait until the second inning when some of the middle-of-the-order heavyweights got busy.

Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez each singled and, when the count went to 2-0 on Hosmer, he sent Joe Kelly's next pitch sailing high over the center-field wall. A three-run blast, the ball landed about 411 feet away, over the clawing glove of center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Royals weren't quite finished. Omar Infante and Mike Moustakas each singled and Infante scored as Jarrod Dyson grounded out for a 4-0 lead.

"It was a good start, put us ahead early and Vargy was really cruising there a little bit," Hosmer said. "Xander Bogaerts put a good swing on a pitch and really got them back in the game. We just lost control of it from there on."

In the third inning, Bogaerts pounded a three-run homer into the left-field bullpen to cut the Royals' lead to 4-3.

More trouble surfaced in the sixth with two on and one out. Royals manager Ned Yost decided to replace Vargas with right-hander Aaron Crow.

"I'm looking for a strikeout there and I just thought the matchup was more favorable to strike out Yoenis Cespedes with his changeup and his two-seamer, so we went with it," Yost said.

Crow, though, walked Cespedes to load the bases, fanned Allen Craig for the second out and then gave up a grand slam to Daniel Nava -- a drive into the right-field bullpen that put Boston ahead, 7-4.

"With Cespedes, I fell behind 2-0 and at that point, there was an open base so if I end up walking him, it's not a big deal," Crow said. "It puts a double play in order and an easy way to get out of the inning. I ended up getting Craig out, and with Nava, I just threw a sinker and it really didn't do what I wanted it to and it stayed up and it happened."

Yost was asked why he didn't bring in Kelvin Herrera, who is more of a strikeout pitcher.

"Because I had confidence in Aaron Crow, that's why. And Aaron Crow's inning is the sixth inning, Kelvin's is the seventh," Yost said.

Another option was to use a left-handed reliever to face Nava, a switch-hitter who was hitting just .158 against lefties. Yost believed, however, that the Red Sox would simply pinch-hit a bigger power threat in right-handed-hitting Mike Napoli.

"Nava wasn't going to face a lefty," Yost said. "With the bases loaded there, I thought we'd have seen Napoli."

It was Nava's second slam. His first came in 2010 on the first pitch of his first Major League at-bat.

"I think the first one holds a little more personal significance than today did," Nava said. "Not to diminish what happened today, [but] that's just your first at bat."

The Royals had one last shot, loading the bases in the ninth inning with two outs. Lorenzo Cain was up but was called out on strikes.

"The ball was about a foot outside but, I mean, what can you do?" Cain said. "A tough out."

A tough series for the Royals. Could they afford, Yost was asked, to lose three of four games to a last-place team?

"No," he said. "No, no."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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