KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alcides Escobar pumped his fist. Jarrod Dyson did a back flip. And for the first time in more than a decade, the Kansas City Royals were in first place in mid-August.
Yordano Ventura outpitched Sonny Gray in a matchup of talented young starters Monday night, and Escobar drove in the go-ahead run as Kansas City beat the Oakland Athletics 3-2 to take over the AL Central lead from Detroit with its eighth consecutive victory.
“You want to be in first place. Our goal was to get back to first place,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Now our goal is to stay in first place.”
The Royals trailed the Tigers by eight games on July 21, but their 16th win in 19 games wiped away the deficit and gave them the lead at the latest point in a season since 2003.
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“We’re playing great,” said Escobar, who drove in a run in the second inning before his two-out single off Gray (12-6) in the seventh gave Kansas City the lead for good.
Ventura lasted through sixth innings before giving way to Kelvin Herrera (3-2), who tossed a spotless seventh. Wade Davis breezed through the eighth and Greg Holland worked the ninth for his 35th save, though it didn’t come without a little drama.
Machado sprains right knee
BALTIMORE — Orioles third baseman Manny Machado sprained his right knee taking a swing Monday night against the New York Yankees and needed help to get off the field.
Batting in the third inning, Machado twisted his knee while hitting a broken-bat grounder to shortstop. He dropped in a heap in the batter’s box and gripped his knee in obvious pain as Derek Jeter made the throw to first base.
After a check by head trainer Richie Bancells, Machado limped off the field on the shoulders of Bancells and Baltimore manager Buck Showalter.
An examination determined the injury to be a right knee sprain. The Orioles said Machado would be examined again Tuesday.
•Justin Verlander pitched only one inning of the Detroit Tigers’ 11-6 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates because of soreness in his right shoulder. Despite the short outing, Verlander (10-11) took the loss after giving up five runs — four earned — four hits and two walks. “Just didn’t feel great,” the ace right-hander said. “Disappointing on a night that the team really needed me.” He is scheduled to undergo an MRI in Detroit on Tuesday.
• Earlier Monday, the Royals bolstered their offense by acquiring outfielder Josh Willingham from the Minnesota Twins for minor-league pitcher Jason Adam.
• New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda will come off the disabled list Wednesday and make his first start since his suspension for using pine tar on the mound.
Pineda, the former Mariner, last pitched April 23, when he was ejected from a game against Boston. He received a 10-game suspension from Major League Baseball for ‘’possessing a foreign substance on his person.’’
Pineda has been on the DL since May 6 with a right shoulder muscle injury. He returns to face the Orioles after making two rehabilitation starts for Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates have put star center fielder Andrew McCutchen on the 15-day disabled list because of a broken rib after waiting a week to see how it would heal.