KANSAS CITY – A rarely-used backup infielder who never even got into the game made the play of the day for the Detroit Tigers.
From the dugout, Hernan Perez spotted that a Kansas City runner failed to tag up. That set off a wild sequence Saturday that resulted in an out instead of the go-ahead score — plus a lot of discussion — as Detroit beat the Royals 3-2 to boost its AL Central lead.
Winning pitcher Max Scherzer said he would reward the 23-year-old Perez, who spent most the year in the minors and has only three at-bats this season in the majors.
“Whatever he wants — dinner, lunch, breakfast, drinks, you name it,” Scherzer said. “That’s a one-in-a-million play. It’s unbelievable that we had someone on the bench be astute enough to see that.”
Joe Nathan escaped a ninth-inning jam as the Tigers increased their edge to 2½ games over the Royals.
Norichika Aoki was hitless in three at-bats for Kansas City, which still has a half-game lead over the Seattle Mariners in the race for the second wild-card spot. The Mariners lost to the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Detroit, seeking its fourth straight division title, has won 13 of 18 against the Royals this year, including eight of nine at Kauffman Stadium.
It was 1-1 in the Royals’ half of the sixth when things got crazy.
With Salvador Perez on third and Eric Hosmer on second with one out, Omar Infante lined out to second baseman Ian Kinsler. Trying for a double play, Kinsler threw to shortstop Eugenio Suarez and the ball sailed into left field.
Perez, who had been trying to get back to third after the catch, reversed course, headed home and appeared to score the tiebreaking run.
“I have to give credit where credit is due,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “Hernan Perez was the guy who initially noticed it, sitting on the bench watching the game.”
“That’s how it all started,” he said.
Astros 10, Mariners 1
In Houston, Seattle starter Chris Young got hit hard and the Mariners missed a chance to move up in the AL playoff race.
Chris Carter and Alex Presley hit two-run homers and Matt Dominguez and Carlos Corporan added back-to-back solo shots. Jake Marisnick had a three-run homer in the seventh inning as the Astros snapped a four-game skid.
Seattle stayed one game behind AL wild-card leader Oakland and a half-game in back of Kansas City for the second slot.
Indians 7, Twins 3
In Minneapolis, Yan Gomes homered and drove in four runs to help Cleveland advance in the AL wild-card race.
The Indians are 3½ games out of the second wild-card spot after Oakland, Kansas City and Seattle all lost ahead of them earlier in the day.
Gomes, who had three hits, broke it open with a three-run homer off Trevor May in the fifth inning.
Angels 8, Rangers 5
In Anaheim, Jered Weaver earned his AL-leading 18th victory, Albert Pujols reached the 100-RBI mark with a two-run homer and Mike Trout also hit a two-run shot to lead Los Angeles over Texas.
David Freese added a three-run homer in support of Weaver. Texas had won seven in a row before the loss.
Huston Street pitched a perfect ninth for his career-high 39th save as the AL West champion Angels kept their 2½-game lead over Baltimore in the race for the best record in the majors.
Blue Jays 6, Yankees 3
In New York, Jose Bautista hit his eighth homer of the year against New York, Marcus Stroman pitched six gritty innings and Toronto ended a season-worst six-game losing streak to beat the Yankees and keep its faint playoff hopes alive.
Ichiro Suzuki finished 2-for-4 for New York.
Orioles 7, Red Sox 2
In Baltimore, Adam Jones hit a pair of two-run homers and the Orioles received another steady performance from starter Chris Tillman.
Rays 3, White Sox 1
In St. Petersburg, Florida, Nick Franklin hit his first home run with Tampa Bay and Chris Archer pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning.
Phillies 3, Athletics 0
In Oakland, Jerome Williams beat the Athletics for the third time this season with three different teams, and the Athletics missed an opportunity to extend their lead in the AL wild-card race with a loss to the Phillies.
Oakland remained a half-game ahead of Kansas City for the top wild-card spot.
Williams is the first pitcher since at least 1900 to have one or more wins against the same opponent with three different teams in the same season, according to STATS.
“I’ve been aware of it since I knew I was going to pitch against these guys,” Williams said. “That is crazy. For one, you would never think that you would face the same team. Obviously I was with the AL West so I knew I was going to face them, but coming over to the Phillies in interleague play, you didn’t think you were going to face the team again. It’s a good feat.”