No Central tiebreaker, but KC hosts Wild Card Game

Royals win, prepare to face A's on Tuesday after Tigers take division

No Central tiebreaker, but KC hosts Wild Card Game

CHICAGO -- It was during the fifth inning on Sunday that the Royals knew that their quest for the American League Central championship was over. Detroit won the title by defeating Minnesota.

So the regular-season finale against the White Sox, which turned out to be a 6-4 Royals victory, became rather meaningless in the large scheme of things and manager Ned Yost immediately began sending in his backup players.

"Once we saw the Detroit score, my mindset was, 'OK, let's get some of these guys some at-bats,' " Yost said. "For them to battle back and find a way to win it was big."

White Sox star Paul Konerko's farewell was the major reason that 32,266 fans thronged into U.S. Cellular Field on a beautiful 78-degree afternoon.

By the time the game was over, the Royals learned that their opponent in Tuesday night's AL Wild Card Game (7:07 p.m. CT, TBS) at Kauffman Stadium would be the A's, a team they had beaten five times in seven games this year.

"They're a good team. They've obviously been to the postseason the last couple years," said first baseman Eric Hosmer. "When you make it to the postseason, you know you're going to have to play a good team, so it's going to be fun. We welcome the challenge and we're really looking forward to it."

The Royals finished with an 89-73 record, one game behind the 90-72 Tigers.

"When I went into Spring Training, I felt like 90 wins would have a good chance of winning the division and we got 89 and, of course, Detroit got 90 and I was right," Yost said. "[Our players] are still ready for the challenge ahead. There have been teams that have won the World Series from the Wild Card Game and they know that."

When the Tigers score came in, the Royals had two on and two and were behind, 4-2, in the fifth inning. Yost sent out Josh Willingham to pinch-hit for Billy Butler. He struck out and, as the Royals took the field for the bottom of the fifth, all of their regulars came out of the game.

Now all the preparations are for the Wild Card Game, the Royals' first postseason game since 1985. It would be the first at Kansas City, too, since Oct. 27, 1985, when the Cardinals went down to defeat in the seventh game of the World Series.

So there was no division championship, no bypassing the Wild Card Game, but ...

"There could be a lot worse things. We could be going home," third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "Instead we get to play another game and continue this season."

They need to beat the A's in order to advance to the best-of-five AL Division Series against the Angels. It's win one or be done.

When the Royals took the field earlier in the day, they knew it would take a victory on their part plus a Tigers loss to force a tiebreaker game for the Central title. By the fourth, though, the White Sox had scored four times against Yordano Ventura.

The Royals struck first against Chris Bassitt with two runs in the second, via three doubles. Butler led off with a double to right field and Alex Gordon followed suit. Apparently fearing a catch, Butler only reached third base.

But Salvador Perez followed with a sacrifice fly to score Butler. After an out, Moustakas doubled down the right-field line to get Gordon home.

Ventura was sailing right along but, in the third, Adam Eaton doubled and Marcus Semien cranked a two-run homer into the left-field seats for a 2-2 tie. The White Sox added two more runs in the fourth.

But, with the championship issue decided by the next inning, Yost removed Ventura and began using a string of relievers. Ventura gave up eight hits but struck out six, getting Konerko twice.

The Royals' backups surged ahead in the sixth with three runs. Christian Colon, just off the disabled list, doubled in two runs and scored on Carlos Peguero's single.

The Royals added a run against Scott Carroll in the eighth with Johnny Giavotella scoring on a passed ball and another win was near.

"It was just a good road trip, Cleveland, Chicago, and we won five games games out of seven," Gordon said. "I think our guys are playing well right now so hopefully it can carry over."

Yes, the regular season was over.

"It's a new season now," Hosmer said. "It's obviously playoff baseball. You go up there and the scoreboard is going to say zero-zero-zero. It's about winning ballgames now. It's about doing whatever you can at all costs to win ballgames. That's when the fun begins."

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