Royals put game away late and then secure their first division title since 1985 with a 10-4 win over the Mariners on Thursday. James Paxton only lasts 11/3 innings after tearing a fingernail in his throwing hand.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The celebration seemed somewhat subdued, but when you are leading by six runs in the game and 10 games in the standings that isn’t unexpected.
The final out of the game — a groundout from Kyle Seager — sent the Royals spilling from the first-base dugout at Kauffman Stadium. There were hugs and some jumping up and down while the crowd of 32,244 remained standing as they had for the entire ninth inning and serenaded them with cheers.
With their 10-4 victory over the Mariners on Wednesday night and the Minnesota Twins’ loss in Cleveland, the Royals (89-63) clinched the American League Central title. It was their first division title since 1985.
Most of the Mariners didn’t stick around to watch. That was supposed to be them this season. They were supposed to be one of the teams that got to celebrate a trip into the postseason.
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Instead, they moved two games closer to being mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, after being realistically eliminated a while ago.
But Logan Morrison stood on the rail of the third-base dugout and watched, even though it felt like taking a fastball to the ribs.
“It isn’t enjoyable,” Morrison said. “We were in Anaheim when the Angels clinched last year. It’s not fun.”
So why stay?
“I guess you kind of think what it’d be like to be doing that,” he said. “I think we have the talent in this room to do that. … We need to finish strong. Maybe it will be momentum for next season.”
While the Royals celebrated deep into the evening, the Mariners (74-79) boarded a plane to Anaheim for a three-game set against the Angels — another team still fighting for a postseason spot.
The odds of a Mariners victory lessened considerably in the second inning when James Paxton left the game with torn fingernail.
After giving up a single to Alcides Escobar, manager Lloyd McClendon saw Paxton looking at the problematic middle finger on his throwing hand. He went to the mound with trainer Rob Nodine. Moments later, a frustrated Paxton stalked off the mound in disgust.
It was just his 32nd pitch of the game.
This isn’t the first time Paxton has dealt with fingernail issues. In fact, the injury on stems from an earlier incident. His last rehab start on Sept. 2 was cut short when he tore the fingernail on a cut fastball. Paxton was shut down from throwing for about five days.
“I think in Tacoma I stayed in a little longer and it got a little worse than it is right now,” he said. “Lloyd took a look at it and told me to give him the ball.”
But Paxton isn’t sure if that means he’ll be ready to pitch again sooner than before.
“We’ll see what happens in the next couple days,” McClendon said. “I don’t have those answers tonight.”