The Kansas City Royals are on the verge of clinching their first winning season in 10 years, but they’re concentrating on a more significant goal.
The Royals will try to cut their deficit on a playoff berth while adding to Texas Rangers’ September swoon Saturday night.
Kansas City (81-72) has finished above .500 only once in the last 19 seasons, going 83-79 in 2003, but is close to securing another winning campaign after a 2-1 victory in Friday’s series opener against Texas (83-70).
The Royals scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning when Alcides Escobar, a .238 hitter, drew a bases-loaded walk off Neftali Feliz. It was the 17th victory in the last 25 games and 10th in 13 home contests for Kansas City, which trails by 2 1/2 games for the AL’s final wild-card spot.
“Every game is so big, and that’s what makes it fun,” reliever Luke Hochevar said. “The intensity, the electricity in the ballpark that we’ve had during this push, it’s been awesome.”
The Royals will try to get even closer while sending Texas to its 15th loss in 19 games this month.
The Rangers had a two-game lead in the AL West at the end of August but are now one-half game behind in the wild card race.
“We’ve got to worry about winning ballgames,” manager Ron Washington said.
Having Matt Garza (3-5, 4.94 ERA) on the mound might not help. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.83 ERA in his last five starts and hasn’t made it past the fifth inning in each of his last two.
He was tagged for six runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings in a 6-2 loss in Tampa Bay on Monday.
“I’m letting my team down,” he told the team’s website said. “My job is to help us get to October, and I’m still going to do that, keep trying, keep working, keep pushing. There’s no quit, just keep going and be ready in five days.”
Garza is 1-5 with a 3.83 ERA in eight career starts against the Royals, whom he has not faced since 2010. He’s 0-3 with a 4.18 ERA in four visits to Kauffman Stadium.
Jeremy Guthrie, meanwhile, will try to earn his third win in four decisions. He pitched a complete game Sunday in Detroit but suffered a 3-2 defeat.
Guthrie (14-11, 4.08) kept it competitive despite matching a career high by allowing 13 hits.
“I spent the whole game with guys on base pretty much,” Guthrie said. “They chased some pitches out of the zone and helped me out.”
Guthrie hasn’t faced Texas since a 6-3 win at Kauffman on Sept. 4, 2012. He gave up two runs and five hits over seven innings in that game after going 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA in his previous four starts against the Rangers.
Elvis Andrus, batting .353 with two homers and six RBIs in his last four games, is 8 for 17 all-time against Guthrie. Billy Butler is 8 for 20 with three doubles in his career against Garza.