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Royal pains: Every year, it seems like there's a sub-.500 team that makes life difficult for contenders down the stretch. The Kansas City Royals might be that team for 2012 as they finished off a sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a 2-1 victory at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday. Jeremy Guthrie pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball and Lorenzo Cain made a great ninth-inning grab (above) to send Detroit home without a single win to show for their visit. The Royals were also 5-1 against the White Sox during the month of August, including a sweep in Kansas City two weekends ago. (The White Sox and Tigers will meet in Detroit this weekend with Chicago holding a three-game edge in the AL Central.)
Can the Royals keep playing the role of spoiler? They'll certainly have an opportunity as they have six games left against Chicago and four against Detroit in September. If they keep getting good performances from pitchers like Bruce Chen and Guthrie — the two pitchers combined to limit the Tigers to a total of one run over the last two games — they have a good chance at ruining someone's designs on a division title. Bad news for Cardinals: A terrible night for St. Louis in the District got even worse when Rafael Furcal's sixth-inning elbow injury was initially diagnosed as a torn ulnar collateral ligament that would end his season. The shortstop and the Cards will seek a second opinion on the injury, but the revelation made an 8-1 loss to the Nationals seem like an afterthought. Washington pitcher Edwin Jackson struck out 10 St. Louis batters while Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth both homered.
Free wins!: It took a decent-sized comeback, but the San Francisco Giants finished their midweek record-padding in Houston by erasing an early four-run deficit in an 8-4 win over the Astros. The victory gave San Francisco a three-game sweep over the hapless 'Stros and extended the Giants' division lead to 4 1/2 games when the Dodgers fell 2-0 to Arizona.
Free wins, Part 2!: Oakland owes Cleveland a gift basket if it ends up with a playoff berth. The A's finished off a four-game sweep of the Indians with a 12-7 win at Progressive Field, moving their record to 12-2 over their last 14 games. Seven of those victories came against the Tribe with Oakland outscoring the Indians 51-20 in that time.
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Quote of the day
''I'm sure there could be some scientifical analysis we could do out there. I'd be happy just to win some ballgames."
— Cleveland starter Justin Masterson, who moved to 1-5 with a 10.36 ERA in five career starts against Oakland
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Photo of the day: Vin Scully for president
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Three facts for the water cooler
• The Angels used a 5-2 win over the Red Sox to sweep all six games of the season series between the two teams. It's the first time in franchise history that Boston has been swept in a season series of six or more games.
• It's all about small victories on the North Side these days. Thursday's 12-11 comeback win over the Brewers prevented the Cubs from falling 32 games under .500 for the first time since finishing 65-97 in 2000.
• Tampa Bay was shutout 2-0 by Carlos Villanueva and the Blue Jays on Thursday night. Six of the team's nine shutouts have occurred in the past 25 games.
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