KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – Norichika Aoki went 4-for-4 and set up the winning run with a two-out, ninth-inning double for the Kansas City Royals in a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
The Royals could easily have had a bigger hole to dig themselves out of had Aoki not come up big in right field in the top of the third inning. With two outs and a runner on first, Jordan Danks drilled a pitch into right-center, but Aoki made a good running catch to save a run and end the inning.
Aoki, who also drew a walk, opened the eighth inning with an infield single on a checked swing. He hesitated getting out of the box but reached second on a throwing error. He went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Alex Gordon’s flare single that cut the White Sox’s lead to 3-2.
“I checked my swing and the ball hit it,” Aoki said of his bouncer past the left of the mound. “It’s a new kind of bunt, the ultimate bunt.
“I was on base and although that didn’t translate into runs, one could say it turned things our way.”
With one out in the ninth, Mike Moustakas reached on a double. With two outs, pinch runner Jarrod Dyson stole third on the first pitch to Aoki. Dyson didn’t slide when reliever Jake Petricka’s pitch bounced on the plate, took off for home and beat the throw to tie the game. Aoki then smacked a 2-1 fastball and it sliced past third base for a double.
Aoki was replaced by pinch runner Terrance Gore, who got a great jump off second on Lorenzo Cain’s chopper up the middle and sprinted home when the ball was bobbled.
“I was definitely going to be safe,” Cain said. “I just put it in play and ran. They ended up bobbling the ball and Gore scored. I was definitely thinking he’d field it and hold on. (Cain is) fast. It’s a huge win for the boys.”
It was a bizarre ending to a game that the White Sox led 3-0 going into the seventh.
“It was strange,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “When you see a play like that you think that’s OK, you can give it to them and try to get the next guy, but then they get another one. That kid (Gore) is fast. Speed can do a lot of things.”
Wade Davis (9-2) worked a scoreless ninth to pick up the victory, extending his scoreless streak to 31⅔ innings.
Angels 8, Mariners 1
In Anaheim, Los Angeles became the first team in the major leagues to clinch a playoff spot after Matt Shoemaker allowed five hits into the eighth inning against Seattle.
David Freese and Brennan Boesch homered for the big league-leading Angels (94-56), who reduced their magic number to three in the AL West race with their 11th victory in 12 games. Los Angeles is assured of at least a wild card berth in its first postseason since 2009.
Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma (14-8) allowed six hits and seven runs in 3⅓ innings. He walked two and struck out four.
Astros 3, Indians 1
In Houston, Jose Altuve had three hits to give him 209 this season and drove in two runs, leading the Astros over Cleveland.
The major league hits leader is just one hit shy of tying the franchise record of 210, set by Craig Biggio in 1998.
Orioles 5, Blue Jays 2
In Baltimore, the Orioles moved to the brink of claiming their first AL East title in 17 years, using a resilient pitching performance by Chen Wei-yin Chen against Toronto.
Baltimore can clinch the division crown with a win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday. That would assure the Orioles their second playoff berth in three years following a run of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
Chen (16-4) allowed two runs on nine hits over 5⅔ innings to become the first Orioles lefty to win 16 games since Jimmy Key in 1997 — the year Baltimore last won the AL East.
Blue Jays pinch hitter Munenori Kawasaki lined out to right field in the eighth.
Tigers 8, Twins 6
In Minneapolis, Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera hit back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning to help Detroit tighten its grip on the AL Central by winning its fourth consecutive game.
The Tigers blew a 6-0 lead they built by the fifth, but after Joe Mauer’s second two-run single tied the game for the Twins in the eighth, Hunter hit the first pitch of the ninth from Casey Fien (5-6) into the bullpen behind left-center field.
Rays 1, Yankees 0
In St. Petersburg, Florida, Ben Zobrist hit a game-ending single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting Tampa Bay over New York.
Ichiro Suzuki was 1-for-4, hitting his 11th double, for the Yankees.