CLEVELAND — The Kansas City Royals’ reign as AL Central champions is officially over. If they are to defend their World Series title, it will have to occur as a wild card.
Right-hander Ian Kennedy surrendered three runs and a season-high 10 hits Wednesday night, allowing the Cleveland Indians to beat Kansas City 4-3. The defeat eliminated the Royals from the division race.
All-Star catcher Salvador Perez homered, singled and had two RBIs for the Royals, who trail Baltimore by five games for the final AL wild card spot with 10 games to play.
“We had a lot of injuries, man, all season,” Perez said. “We just kept losing guys, so it was a tough year for us, but that’s no excuse. We can’t do anything about it now, but we’re going to continue to play hard until the end, no matter what happens.”
Kennedy (11-10) lasted 5 2/3 innings in losing for the first time since July 25, a span of 10 starts and five wins. He went 2-3 in five outings against AL Central leader Cleveland, which holds a 7 1/2-game lead over Detroit.
Kendrys Morales and Perez had RBI singles in the third to put Kansas City in front 2-1, but the Indians took the lead for good in the fifth on run-scoring doubles by Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis.
“The Indians are a very good team and have been all year, which is why they’re winning the division,” Kennedy said. “They just grind out at-bats over and over, and really make you work on the mound.”
The Royals shared first place with Cleveland on June 15, but are 42-44 since and now own the 10th-best record in the AL.
Last season, the Royals won their first World Series since 1985 by beating the Mets in five games. They were favored to repeat in the division before losing Perez, third baseman Mike Moustakas, outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain, and closer Wade Davis for extended time with injuries.
Kansas City qualified for the playoffs as a wild card in 2014, advancing to the seventh game of the World Series before losing to San Francisco.
Indians right-hander Corey Kluber (18-9) allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings, while Cody Allen gave up a solo homer to Perez in the ninth before earning his 28th save.
The Royals put the potential tying run on against Allen, but pinch-runner Terrance Gore was thrown out by Roberto Perez while attempting to steal second base. It was Gore’s first career caught stealing in 18 regular season tries.
“That was perfect execution by Allen and Perez, which is the only way you’re going to get Gore out,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “He’s one of those guys who can steal a base when everyone in the ballpark knows he’s going to try, but they just executed it perfectly.”
Royals LHP Jason Vargas, who underwent reconstructive elbow surgery last July, will be on a 60-65 pitch count Thursday. He threw 52 pitches Saturday in his first big league game since July 21, 2015. “Jason worked very diligently to come back this quickly,” Yost said. “We appreciate it, so we want to get him 10-15 innings going into the offseason.”
Royals: Vargas returned from Tommy John surgery and pitched three innings on Sept. 17 against the White Sox, allowing one run on two hits with a strikeout.
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger makes his first appearance against Kansas City. The rookie is 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA in seven games, including four starts, at Progressive Field.