CHICAGO (AP) — Moments after Detroit secured the AL Central title, Kansas City manager Ned Yost started pulling some of his regulars from the lineup.
It was finally time to start preparing for the playoffs.
Kansas City’s chance for a division crown was erased by Detroit’s victory on Sunday, and the Royals went on to a 6-4 comeback win over Chicago in the final game for retiring White Sox captain Paul Konerko.
Coming into the final day of the regular season, Kansas City was hoping for a one-game playoff on Monday in Detroit for the division crown. But the Tigers clinched with a 3-0 victory over the Twins, sending the Royals to the wild-card game on Tuesday night against Oakland in their first postseason appearance since winning Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.
“There’s been teams that have won the World Series from the wild-card game, and they know that,” Yost said. “So they’re excited to start the process.
“When a lot of teams are going home, the elite few get to stay back and play in this tournament, and for the first time in a long time, we’ve earned the right to play in it.”
Kansas City (89-73) will send James Shields to the mound against Oakland left-hander Jon Lester when it hosts the first game of the 2014 playoffs. The Royals went 5-2 against the Athletics this year, but both of their losses came against Lester.
“I’m glad we can kind of put the regular season behind us, start this new journey right now,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “It’s going to be a fun experience.”
Konerko started at first base and played five innings on the final day of his 18-year big league career. The slugger, who paid tribute to his wife and three children by writing their names in the infield dirt behind the bag, went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.
Konerko went out to first before Kansas City batted in the sixth inning, and then was replaced by Andy Wilkins. Konerko waved his hat toward the visiting dugout, where the Royals were standing and applauding along the top step, and then waved to the standing crowd of 32,266, once again hearing chants of “Paulie! Paulie!”
The 38-year-old disappeared into the dugout for a brief moment and then popped back out for a curtain call. He waved to the crowd again and acknowledged the sustained cheers with a bow before retreating back into the dugout, where he received more hugs and congratulations from his teammates.
“This whole thing blew me away,” said Konerko, who also was honored by the White Sox before Saturday night’s game. “I know I’ve been here a while and I knew there’d be something at the end that would be commemorating me being here for a while. But this whole thing, the fans and all that last night, I never thought that I was one of those guys that gets that.”
Konerko also lingered on the field after the loss to exchange high-fives with the fans along the railing of his longtime home. A six-time All-Star, Konerko finishes with a .279 average, 439 homers and 1,412 RBIs.
Chicago had a 4-2 lead when Konerko departed, but Kansas City responded with three runs in the sixth. Christian Colon, who was activated from the disabled list before the game, hit a tying two-run double off Daniel Webb (6-5) and Carlos Peguero added a tiebreaking RBI single.
Casey Coleman (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning for his first win since Sept. 9, 2011, for the Chicago Cubs against Milwaukee. Louis Coleman got three outs for his first save.
The White Sox (73-89) dropped five of their final six games. Adam Eaton went 3 for 3 before he was replaced in the field before the fifth inning, leaving him with a .300 batting average.