Fielder out at home in 9th, Royals beat Tigers 1-0
Tigers' manager Jim Leyland wouldn't second guess third-base coach Tom Brookens' decision to send the runner in the ninth inning Saturday night.
Not even when it was burly first baseman Prince Fielder.
Fielder was thrown out at home plate to end the game in Detroit's 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
''With two out, it was a no-brainer. Brookie made the right call, without question,'' Leyland said.
Detroit's magic number to clinch the AL central remained at 10 games.
The loss wasted a great performance by Doug Fister (12-9), who gave up a run and eight hits in 7 2-3 innings. He walked four and struck out six.
The only run came on Eric Hosmer's one-out triple in the first.
''It's something every pitcher has to go through at certain points of the game. That first inning, that one to Hosmer he just left up,'' Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. ''After that he was pretty much lights-out, kept the ball down, changed speeds.''
Jose Alvarez got the final out of the eighth and Al Alburquerque pitched a perfect ninth inning.
Fielder walked to open the ninth. The Tigers' slugger then tried to score from first on Omar Infante's two-out double, but Gold Glove outfielder Alex Gordon made a strong throw from the left field corner to Alcides Escobar. The shortstop then made the relay to catcher Salvador Perez, who tagged a sliding Fielder to end it.
Escobar's throw came in behind Fielder and Perez had to guess the ball's trajectory.
''I didn't see the ball,'' Perez said. ''I just put my glove down and got the short hop and tagged him.''
Escobar couldn't believe Perez's play.
''Salvador, he picked ball up . unbelievable!'' the shortstop said. He added: ''That game was one of the best games I've ever played in in my career.''
Leyland, who never considered pinch running for Fielder, complimented the Royals.
''Really, they executed that play to perfection,'' Leyland said. ''The only thing was, when I saw the throw coming in, I thought he might get a bad hop, but he made a terrific pick of that ball, and tag. You got to tip your cap to them. They made a big defensive play when they had to.''
It was Kansas City's biggest win of the season.
''We had to win this ballgame and the manner in which we did it was just exciting,'' Royals' manager Ned Yost said.
The play at the plate helped the Royals gain ground on the two teams ahead them in the race for the second AL wild card, the Yankees and Orioles, who both lost Saturday.
Ervin Santana (9-9) won for the first time since Aug. 4, outpitching Fister. Santana allowed five hits in 6 2-3 innings, walking one and striking out five.
''Everything was working pretty good,'' Santana said. ''I threw a lot of strikes and most of the time ahead in the count. That was the key.''
Miguel Cabrera made a bid to put Detroit ahead with two outs and a man on in the bottom of the sixth. But Gordon caught Cabrera's long drive to left-center at the fence.
Santana was replaced by Smith with two outs and runners on second and third in the seventh. Smith got pinch-hitter Nick Castellanos to fly out to end the inning.
Hochevar pitched a scoreless eighth and Holland worked the ninth for his 43rd save.
Gordon lined a single to right on Fister's first pitch of the game, and he scored on Hosmer's one-out triple to right-center.
Royals second baseman Emilio Bonafacio was ejected by first base umpire James Hoye after Bonifacio was picked off first base by Fister for the final out of the third inning. Hoye ejected Bonifacio immediately after he began to argue the call.
NOTES: Royals trainer Nick Kenney came out to check on Santana after he was hit by Andy Dirks' liner in the second. Santana recovered to throw Dirks out at first. Santana eventually threw a couple of warm-up pitches and continued. ... Detroit right fielder Torii Hunter threw out Getz at third base in the eighth when Getz tried to advance from second on a flyout. ..The Royals are 10-8 against the Tigers this season, clinching the season series with one game left. ... In Sunday's series finale, the Detroit's Max Scherzer (19-3, 3.01) will go for his 20th win against Kansas City right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (14-10, 4.11).