Royals rise above .500, try to stay there against Tigers

DETROIT -- While the Detroit Tigers continue their playoff push, the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals find themselves battling to finish above .500.

Kansas City reminded Detroit and everybody else on Saturday that the Royals are, after all, the defending World Series champions. They scored five times in the ninth inning to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 7-4 win that brought them back above break-even at 78-77.

"For me, it's extremely important," Royals manager Ned Yost said Saturday about moving above .500. "This group has made history the last couple years and we still have a chance to do it.

"If we finish over .500, it will be the fourth consecutive year that we've had a winning record and that's only been done one other time in this organization.

"So we need to do everything we can do to achieve that because we feel next year, getting Moose (Mike Moustakas) back, getting (Lorenzo) Cain back, getting some big pieces back in our lineup, that we're going to have an opportunity to be the first club in the history of the Royals to go five winning seasons.

"It's been a struggle here for us lately, but that's a huge goal for us."

Detroit, which finished last in the American League Central a year ago after four straight division titles, is unlikely to overtake first-place Cleveland but expects to be in the thick of the battle for one of the two wild-card spots. The Tigers trail Baltimore by one-half game for the second spot.

"We just need to play well to get to whatever's next, quite frankly," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Then anything can happen."

Ausmus recalled his time as a catcher with the Houston Astros a decade ago.

"In 2006, the Cardinals were playing like crap the last two weeks of the season," he said. "They won the World Series.

"They lost like nine out of 11. We swept them four straight games in Houston and they went in a tailspin."

The Astros trailed the Cardinals by 8 1/2 games with 13 left but rallied to within a half-game with three games remaining. St. Louis hung on to win the division.

Detroit will send a third straight young starter out Sunday to face Kansas City. Left-hander Matt Boyd (6-4, 4.16 ERA) is coming off a career best eight-inning start at Minnesota in which he allowed just one run and three hits with seven strikeouts.

This will be Boyd's second start against the Royals this season. He was beaten in his other start, allowing seven runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings. Boyd has started five times against Kansas City in his two seasons with Detroit, going 1-2 with a 7.43 ERA.

Right-hander Edinson Volquez (10-11, 5.25) is on record as saying he would like to return to Kansas City next year. His contract is a mutual option situation.

Volquez is 2-0 with a 4.05 ERA in three starts against the Tigers this season and is 3-4 with a 5.46 ERA in 10 career starts against Detroit.