Kansas City players tipped their caps to Derek Jeter when the retiring New York Yankees captain walked up to the plate in the first inning. Then the Royals went back to work trying to make some history of their own.
Yordano Ventura pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning, and the American Lague Central leaders beat the Yankees 2-0 on Sunday on a pair of unearned runs for their second shutout in the three-game series.
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Trying for its first playoff berth since winning the 1985 World Series, Kansas City maintained a two-game lead in the AL Central over the second-place Tigers, who defeated San Francisco 6-1 on Sunday night. The Royals headed to Detroit for a three-game series that starts Monday.
"We’re playing great baseball," manager Ned Yost said. "We’re pitching, and we’re playing defense and scoring runs and winning ballgames, and that’s all I can ask."
Kansas City scored because of errors by pitcher Shane Greene in the second inning and right fielder Carlos Beltran in the third. The Royals won 1-0 Friday night on an unearned run following third baseman Chase Headley’s error and went 4-3 against the Yankees this year to take the season series for the first time since 1999.
And they won on Derek Jeter Day, when many Yankees stars of the past returned for a 45-minute ceremony that also included NBA great Michael Jordan and baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr. Video messages from athletes, celebrities and even astronauts in space were shown throughout the day.
"Oh, man! That was, honestly, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen," Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said. "Any time anyone came on that board or anyone they announced, I got chills."
Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie suggested to his teammates that they tip their caps.
"He was my favorite player growing up," Guthrie said. "I was there for the final game at (the original) Yankee Stadium. I was there when he recorded his 2,723rd hit that broke the hits record for the Yankees. … And now to be here for this — I’ve seen quite a few really cool moments."
Kansas City, which hasn’t been in first place this late in a season since 1989, hopes to give its fans a reason to celebrate this fall.
Ventura (12-9) won his third straight start, leaving after a leadoff walk in the seventh — his fourth of the game.
"When I was able to throw the curve for a strike, it really helped all of the other pitches and made for quick innings," he said through a translator. "When the curveball wasn’t getting over for a strike, that could have been the difference in the walks."
With closer Greg Holland sidelined by a strained right triceps, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis combined for one-hit relief.
Kansas City went ahead in the second when Josh Willingham reached on an infield single near the mound, advanced on Moustakas’ single and scored with two outs when Nori Aoki hit a slow roller that Greene (4-3) threw wildly past first base.
Beltran dropped Alex Gordon’s easy fly leading off the third, and Gordon stole second before scoring on a single by Eric Hosmer, his first RBI since July 29.
"Any way you can score runs is a good way," Moustakas said. "It doesn’t matter how they get across as long as you’re scoring."