Royals take over top spot in AL Central

Norichika Aoki

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alcides Escobar pumped his fist. Jarrod Dyson did a backflip. 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.

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.

Ventura lasted through six 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.

Josh Donaldson led off the ninth with a single, the first hit by the Athletics since the second inning, and Brandon Moss drew a walk. But after a brief conference on the mound, Holland got Derek Norris to bounce into a double play and Stephen Vogt to fly out to end the game.

The Royals have not trailed since the first inning of last Thursday’s game in Arizona, a span of 44 innings.