With division implications still at play, the Royals took the field against the White Stockings of Chicago. Following an extended salute to Paul Konerko, the game was under way. Within twenty minutes, it felt like the game was over, as Chicago scored three runs in a thirty-two pitch first inning against Duffy. They backed that up with an additional run in the second on another lengthy inning that saw bullpen action but no relief appearance.
Duffy came out for the third, and was removed after one batter. Louis Coleman came in and faced five batters in two innings, recording six outs.
For the opposing team, John Danks continued a recent habit of shutting the Royals down. He went seven innings and gave up just two earned runs on five hits and two walks while recording three strikeouts.
Josh Phegley, who was hitting .133/.129/.267 prior to the game, belted two home runs to give Chicago the runs they needed. He has three home runs this season, all of which have come against the Royals in the last three days.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Minnesota Twins were handing the Tigers another blowout loss, riding a six-run fifth and adding four more in the eighth to put the game away.
The Royals had a serious run-scoring opportunity in the eighth inning. Ronald Belisario replaced Danks, and promptly gave up a walk to Alcides Escobar. Followed by a single by Nori Aoki, and an RBI single by Lorenzo Cain, the Royals found themselves down 5-3 with two men on and nobody out.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura replaced Belisario with Eric Surkamp to face Eric Hosmer. On the very first pitch of the at bat, Hosmer grounded into a heart-crushing double play. Petricka relieved Surkamp to face Butler, who grounded out to third base with a runner on third, ending the threat without further damage.
Petricka came out to start the ninth, and promptly walked Alex Gordon to lead off the inning. Javy Guerra was then brought into the game, and after Salvador Perez managed a modicum of patience at the plate, he absolutely smoked a ball to center field, which had the affable quality of being aimed directly at the center fielder for the first out. Omar Infante then grounded out to the pitcher, moving Gordon to second. Moustakas was allowed to bat, and actually produced something, lifting a single over the shift and in front of the right fielder, plating Gordon and cutting the deficit to one. Terrance Gore pinch-ran, but Escobar could only manage a ground out to short to end the game.
The Royals (88-73) had an opportunity to tie the Tigers for the AL Central tonight, but it is important to remember that this game represents one of any number of opportunities they have had over the rest of the year. By my count, the Royals have had 72 other opportunities to be in a tie for first place, including a baker's dozen of losses against the Detroit Tigers themselves.
The Royals conclude their regularly scheduled set of games tomorrow against the White Sox, and will send Yordano Ventura to the mound to throw fire. Detroit has David Price going, which is a mixed bag since the trade, but he is still David Price.
The Royals were guaranteed a home playoff game at least, as Oakland lost to Texas 5-4. The Mariners are currently tied 1-1 with the Angels, and if they win their last two, coupled with another Oakland loss tomorrow, they will play each other for the second Wild Card spot.