DETROIT — “Just win” continues to be the daily mantra of Detroit and Kansas City until winning will no longer be mathematically good enough to get them into baseball's postseason.
“They're trained themselves not to look too far ahead,” manager Brad Ausmus said of his Tigers, who Saturday afternoon host the Royals in the middle game of their weekend series. “They're not looking past (this game).”
The Tigers beat the Royals 8-3 on Friday night to maintain their position as the second wild-card team in the American League. Detroit is a half-game up on Baltimore and a game back of Toronto.
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Kansas City is on track to become the latest World Series winner not to qualify for the playoffs the season after.
The Royals must climb over multiple teams to claim a wild-card spot and it gets less likely with each loss.
“The injuries definitely took a toll on us this year,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “We lost some key players and two big pieces in the middle of our lineup with Moose (Mike Moustakas) and with (Lorenzo) Cain.
“We lost Hoch (reliever Luke Hochevar) and we lost Wade (closer Davis) twice. Wade's doing fine. It's part of the game. You've just got to be able to deal with it and continue to keep striving and keep moving forward.”
Kansas City right-hander Yordano Ventura (11-11, 4.35 ERA) takes the ball Saturday and opposes left-hander Daniel Norris (3-2, 3.63).
Ventura is coming off his second career complete game in his last outing, an 8-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox. He's 5-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 13 post-All-Star game starts.
The Tigers have yet to beat Ventura, who in 10 starts plus one relief appearance is 7-0 against Detroit with a 2.84 ERA.
Norris has faced the Royals three times previously in his two-season career with an 0-1 record and 3.57 ERA in three starts. Two of those starts and one loss have come this year.
“I think there's a little bit of a sense of urgency now,” Ausmus said. “This is our last home stand now; last chance at home to try and do something in the standings.
“We're playing against two teams that know each other very well in Kansas City and Cleveland and we know (them) very well. For some reason, maybe I was the only one who felt it, but I thought there was more energy.
“You just keep moving forward. That's how you're trained when you play this game. You just keep plowing forward. There's no rearview mirror.”
“We control where we end up,” said Ian Kinsler, who reached base four times Friday with two walks, a single and a double in his return to the lineup after missing three games with concussion symptoms.
“I thought, being back home with the music in the background, the fans cheering, it was a little bit of a different atmosphere,'' Ausmus said. “We're hoping the rest of this homestand, the next six games, we see similar results, and we see the same atmosphere in the stadium.
“There was a palpable difference in the ballpark.”