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Royals continue wild-card chase with 1-0 win

The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- Bullpen arms aren't the only thing keeping the Kansas City Royals in the hunt for the second wild card berth in the American League.

On Saturday night, the Royals got a nice assist from its left field and shortstop arms, too.

Prince Fielder was thrown out at the plate trying to score the tying run from first base on a two-out double to left by Omar Infante to preserve Kansas City's 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

"It may be exciting for those guys (in the clubhouse), but it's nerve-wracking for me," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I can feel my heart pounding. Once it's over, I can relax a little bit."

The Royals entered the evening 3 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot and left at least with the same margin after handing the Tigers their 10th shutout loss of the season. Detroit's magic number remained at 10 with second-place Cleveland winning to shave the Tigers' AL Central lead to five games.

"That was a huge win for us," Yost said. "We haven't had a game all year that we had to win. We had to win that one."

Greg Holland racked up his 43rd save but, it was as much the arms of left fielder Alex Gordon and shortstop Alcides Escobar as it was his that secured the save.

Fielder drew a walk to open the ninth and remained there as Holland got the next two hitters on a fly to short right and a strikeout. But Infante lined a 2-1 pitch to the left field wall, where Gordon stabbed at it before picking it up and firing a tight relay throw to Escobar, who fired a somewhat offline throw to catcher Salvador Perez in foul territory.

Perez grabbed the ball, reached back and tagged the sliding Fielder as he attempted to reach the plate with the tying run.

There was no second-guess of pinch-running for Fielder after he walked or with two out because manager Jim Leyland doesn't do that. If the game gets tied, he wants both Fielder and Miguel Cabrera able to bat in extra innings.

"I don't pinch-run for Fielder or Cabrera," Leyland said. "I might for Victor (Martinez), but not for them.

"It took two really good plays to get him. I don't question the decision at all. Perez made a terrific pick and tag. They executed it to perfection."

Ervin Santana (9-9) blanked Detroit on five hits in 6 2/3 innings and outdueled Doug Fister (12-9), who allowed an RBI triple to Eric Hosmer in the first inning.

Relievers Will Smith and Luke Hochevar got the ball to Holland.

"They might have the best bullpen in the league," Leyland has said of the Royals' relievers on several occasions, most recently Friday night.

Yosts said, "We've got the best bullpen in baseball. Now we've got 15 games left."

Hochevar stranded Torii Hunter at second after a two-out double in the eighth by getting Cabrera on a soft groundout to second. Smith got rookie pinch-hitter Nick Castellanos to fly out to center with runners on second and third and two out in the seventh.

"I told Smitty, 'Do not give in to the kid,'" Yost said. "We weren't giving in to Cabrera. We were going to keep the ball down and away."

Santana walked just one and struck out five. Fister allowed one run, eight hits and four walks in 7 2/3 innings.

Gordon ripped Fister's first pitch of the game into right field for a single and scored from there when Hosmer launched a triple high off the wall in right center to score the only run of the game.

Hosmer tried to score on Billy Butler's grounder to third but was easily thrown out at the plate by Miguel Cabrera.

Kansas City loaded the bases after the first two batters were retired in the fifth, but Chris Getz flied out to center to end the threat.

The Royals enter Sunday's last game of 2013 against the Tigers having clinched the season series. Kansas City has won 10 of 18 games.

NOTES: Royals 1B Carlos Pena is done for the season. He underwent an emergency appendectomy on Saturday morning in a Detroit area hospital. ... When Fielder reached 100 RBIs on Friday night to join Cabrera at that level, it marked the 11th time since 1961 that two Tigers had at least 100 RBIs in the same season. ... 2B Emilio Bonifacio was picked off first base for the second straight night. It led to his ejection when he demonstratively objected to the call, including a helmet jam. Getz replaced him at second. ... Detroit RHP Max Scherzer was scheduled to make his fourth try for his 20th victory on Sunday when he starts against Kansas City. He has allowed 11 earned runs in his last 16 innings.

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