Mendoza solid in loss as Royals applaud history

Mendoza solid in loss as Royals applaud history

Mendoza solid in loss as Royals applaud history
KANSAS CITY -- The first Triple Crown winner in 45 years was wearing a Detroit Tigers uniform, but the 30,383 fans at Kauffman Stadium seemed to thoroughly enjoy witnessing baseball history.

Miguel Cabrera became the first player to lead a Major League in average, home runs and RBIs since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. The coronation came during the Tigers' 1-0 victory over the Royals on Wednesday night as the regular season came to a close.

Cabrera made his exit with a dramatic flair, thanks to Tigers manager Jim Leyland. Holding a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, Cabrera was accorded a Kansas City ovation worthy of a Triple Crown winner.

"Our fans are special in that way," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It was like the response they gave Chipper Jones at the All-Star Game. Our fans are very knowledgeable. Everybody -- I was, our whole team -- was giving him a standing ovation. What he did was nothing less than simply amazing."

With two outs in the Royals' fourth, Leyland sent Ramon Santiago out to replace Cabrera at third base. As the crowd rose and cheered, Cabrera doffed his cap toward the Royals' dugout and to the fans, then entered the visitors' dugout for hugs and handshakes from the Tigers.

"We were just fans, really, standing on top of the dugout and cheering him on just like everybody else here," Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander said. "I don't think he's very liked in this stadium, and these fans gave him a standing ovation. That's pretty special, and I think it's great that they recognized what he did."

Verlander had a point -- Cabrera's career average at Kauffman Stadium is .366 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 47 games. He hasn't been kind to the Royals.

As the ovation continued, pitcher Max Scherzer stood off the mound until Cabrera popped onto the dugout steps for a curtain call.

"Awesome," said the Royals' Mike Moustakas. "It's something that you don't see ever. To be here and be able to watch it in person, it was breath-taking, it was cool. It's something that's amazing for the game."

The prospect of such a moment prompted a run on the Royals' box office on Wednesday when 12,503 tickets were sold.

Cabrera went 0-for-2 against Royals starter Luis Mendoza on his big night.

"I'm really proud of that, it's a good feeling, you know," Mendoza said. "One of the best hitters right now, the Triple Crown and I can get him out."

But Cabrera's place in history was secure. Or at least it was two innings later when, in New York, the Yankees' Curtis Granderson was taken out of the game and finished one home run shy of Cabrera.

That development prompted a congratulatory message to the Triple Crown winner on the Kauffman Stadium scoreboard, prompting another ovation.

"Good for him. He's a great hitter. He deserves that ovation. It's something that you haven't seen in I don't know how many years," Mendoza said. "So, of course, I'm going to remember this game. Especially that I pitched against him. That's a great moment."

The Tigers' place in the postseason had been secure since last Monday night's victory in the first game of this series when they won the American League Central title. The Royals finished in third place with a 72-90 record, 16 games behind Detroit.

In their last game of the regular season, the Tigers were warming up for their AL Division Series opener on Saturday at Oakland. They went ahead, 1-0, in the fifth inning when Omar Infante singled, stole second base and third base and scored on Austin Jackson's double.

Scherzer, testing his right shoulder and right ankle, pitched into the fifth inning and four relievers completed the shutout. Mendoza went seven innings for the Royals, giving up one run on six hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

"We didn't want to end that way," Yost said. "Mendoza pitched a whale of a ballgame. I was doing everything I could to try to let him hang in there long enough to get that ninth win. That would've been a real nice year for him, finishing 9-9. He just pitched a great ballgame. We couldn't get him any run support."

Even with an 8-10 record, Mendoza tied Luke Hochevar with the second-most wins on the Royals' staff to Bruce Chen's 11.

"He has definitely put himself into a position to start or be a big part of our bullpen somewhere [next year]," Yost said.

But the focus on this balmy, 72-degree night in Kansas City was on a big guy in a Detroit uniform.

"It was neat to see what he did. It hadn't happened in 45 years, and for me to be a part of it and see it was really cool," the Royals' Jeff Francoeur said. "We have great baseball fans and I think they realized how unbelievable what he did was. And, for me, it was a lot of fun to see. ... I really hope that the [AL] MVP is next for him because he really deserves it."

Yost echoed the thoughts of many who watched the culmination of Cabrera's season-long accomplishment.

"Somebody said earlier, it ranks up there with a 30-win season, with hitting .400. Winning the Triple Crown -- it's not easy to do," he said. "I don't know if we'll see it again."

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