What a way to close out this All-Star summer at Kauffman Stadium.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera completed baseballs first Triple Crown in 45 years Wednesday night to the delight of a big, appreciative walk-up crowd that again spoke to the pent-up enthusiasm of a community thirsting for its own winner.
That crowd of 30,383 also saw the Royals conclude their season with a 1-0 loss that sent them into the winter at 72-90. That marked four straight seasons, and eight times in nine years, that the Royals had lost at least 90 games.
We didnt want to end that way, manager Ned Yost said. (Luis) Mendoza pitched a whale of a ballgame. I was doing everything I could to let him hang in there long enough to see if he could get that ninth win. We just couldnt get him any run support.
Mendoza, 8-10, limited the Tigers to one run and six hits in seven innings. The Royals, meanwhile, stranded 11 runners against four Detroit pitchers and were zero for five with runners in scoring position.
What can I say? Mendoza said while shrugging. I just tried to keep it a close game.
This night was all about Cabrera, who received an extended ovation from the crowd in the first inning when introduced prior to his first at-bat. He drew notable cheers prior to his second at-bat, but the highlight came with two outs in the Royals fourth.
Thats when Ramon Santiago chugged from the Detroit bench to third base to replace Cabrera, who turned toward Tigers manager Jim Leyland and spread his arms in a why gesture before leaving the field.
The crowd rose to its feet in applause and players on both benches joined in. The cheering continued until Cabrera came back onto the field for a cap-tipping curtain call.
Between us and the fans, I thought that was really classy, right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. What happened hasnt happened in 45 years. The fans here are good baseball fans, and everybody was aware of what was going on.
When you see him do what hes done for so many years and he plays here nine times a year so I think the fans have come to respect what he does. That was a lot of fun to be a part of tonight.
It was a nice moment that recalled the citys enjoyment in July at serving as host to the All-Star Game and its surrounding festivities.
It was like the response they gave Chipper Jones at the All-Star Game, Yost said. Somebody said it ranks up there with a 30-win season. It ranks up there with hitting .400. Winning the Triple Crown its not easy to do. I dont if well see it again.
Cabrera finished the season with 44 homers, 139 RBIs and a .330 average for the first Triple Crown since Boston outfielder Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
No, I dont believe it, Cabrera said. I dont believe it. Is this real? I dont know when Im going to believe this.
Detroit scored the games only run in the next inning.
Omar Infante led off with a single through the left side and stole second. After Don Kelly struck out, Austin Jackson lined an RBI double into center. That boosted Jacksons average to .300 and brought pinch-runner Avisail Garcia into the game.
I was behind in the count, Mendoza said, and I tried to throw a curveball to see if I could get a ground ball. He just sat on that pitch.
The Royals threatened to answer in their fifth after Drew Smyly replaced Detroit starter Max Scherzer. Irving Falu led off with a walk and went to third on Alcides Escobars one-out, hit-and-run single.
Escobar tried to advance when a pitch got away from catcher Alex Avila, which turned into the second out. After Smyly walked Alex Gordon, the Tigers brought in Luis Marte to face Billy Butler but a walk loaded the bases.
The Royals stranded all three runners when Jeff Francoeur flied out to right. That made eight stranded runners through five innings. Marte, 1-0, protected the one-run lead through the eighth inning before Luke Putkonen closed out Detroits victory.
That sums up my year, said Francoeur, who also hit a fly to deep center with two on and two outs in the third inning. In Baltimore, Ive got two home runs and six ribbies.
The final ovation for Cabrera came before the Royals came to bat in the sixth inning when the Crown Vision scoreboard confirmed the Triple Crown. That followed Curtis Grandersons departure from the Yankees game after two homers boosted his total to 43.
It was hard the last two weeks, because everybody has been talking about it, Cabrera said. Its been hard to focus. Its been hard trying to do your job.
I think the race to win the division helped me a lot. We focused about that.
The next step for the Tigers, as division champions, is a best-of-five postseason matchup against Oakland that begins Saturday in Detroit. For the Royals, today brings the start of an offseason where bolstering the rotation looms as the top priority.