KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jeremy Guthrie put together another excellent start that might well land him a lucrative contract to remain in Kansas City. Alcides Escobar had another stellar night at shortstop.
Meaningless game? Not for these Royals.
Guthrie won his fifth straight decision to finish off his season, and Escober homered and drove in two runs — and also made a couple of nifty plays on defense — in a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers, who had clinched the AL Central title the previous night.
Miguel Cabrera had two hits and drove in two runs for Detroit before he was lifted in the fifth inning by manager Jim Leyland. With one game remaining, Cabrera leads the American League in batting (.331), home runs (44) and RBIs (139), putting him on the brink of the Triple Crown.
The feat hasn't been accomplished since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Leyland said he's not sure whether he'll put Cabrera into his lineup for the regular-season finale, but he also said the slugging third baseman will play if he wants.
"I've not made the decision, but I will. I'm going to think about it tonight. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do," Leyland said. "If he wants to play, then he'll play."
Cabrera seemed noncommittal when pressed on the topic.
"You know, he writes the lineup and I do what he wants," Cabrera said. "I play ball. He's the manager, he's the boss. So whatever he wants to do, we're going to do. I play for the manager."
Jeff Francoeur homered for Kansas City on Tuesday night, and Salvador Perez had the go-ahead RBI in the fifth inning. Meanwhile, Guthrie (5-3) lasted six innings to improve to 5-0 with six no-decisions in his final 11 starts, the Royals winning 10 of them.
"That's what you see from veteran pitchers. They don't get flustered," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They continue to pitch to their game plan. They know not to let the game speed up on you. You execute your pitches and never give in to the hitter."
Guthrie has indicated that he'd like to remain in Kansas City after this season, but the two sides would have to work out a new deal.
"Obviously, the people that will do the negotiations will handle it," Guthrie said. "Taking care of your family comes first, and then you want the right situation as a player. We'll figure out the best situation for both. There are great teammates here and it's a great city. Any pitcher would be happy here."
Doug Fister (10-10) certainly wasn't happy, though. He allowed three runs on seven hits in 4 1-3 innings for Detroit, scuffling along in his final tune-up before the playoffs.
Page 2 of 2 - "I pitched to contact and I got the contact, just not the contact I wanted," Fister said. "I have some things to work out in the bullpen in the next few days."
The Tigers will open the postseason on Saturday at home.
"I'm not worried about him," Leyland said. "He's fine."
Max Scherzer is another issue.
The right-hander twisted his right ankle in the on-field victory celebration the previous night, knocking him out of his scheduled start Wednesday. Scherzer, who is 16-7 with a 3.82 ERA, was supposed to pitch five innings to test his sore right shoulder.
Luis Marte will start in Scherzer's place, and Leyland will rely on a hodge-podge of relief pitchers to get through the game, the outcome of which is ultimately meaningless.
While Cabrera insisted on playing Tuesday night, Leyland gave the night off to several other regulars. Quintin Berry started in center field, Don Kelly in left field, Ramon Santiago at second base and Danny Worth at shortstop. Several substitutions were made in the later innings.
The cobbled-together lineup played a part in the outcome, too.
Escobar homered in the first inning for Kansas City, but the Tigers still led 2-1 on the strength of Cabrera's timely single when the fifth inning rolled around.
Irving Falu, Jarrod Dyson and Escobar strung together consecutive singles off Fister to tie the game. Alex Gordon popped out to shortstop, and Perez hit a hard grounder toward second base that should have resulted in an inning-ending double play.
Santiago fielded the ball and the Tigers got the first out, but Worth couldn't get the relay over to first base cleanly, which allowed Dyson to score the go-ahead run.
Francoeur added a homer in the eighth, and the Kansas City bullpen shut out the Tigers the final three innings. Greg Holland handled the ninth for his 16h save.
"It was actually a good game," Leyland said. "It was kind of fun."
Notes: Royals 1B Eric Hosmer (strained right shoulder) and 3B Mike Moustakas (groin) will miss the final two games of the season. ... RHP Luis Mendoza will start the season finale for Kansas City. ... Prince Fielder played five innings at 1B for Detroit. He'll DH on Wednesday.