The Kansas City Royals are on the verge of clinching their first winning season in 10 years, but they're concentrating on a more significant goal.
The Royals will try to cut their deficit on a playoff berth while adding to Texas Rangers ' September swoon Saturday night.
Kansas City (81-72) has finished above .500 only once in the last 19 seasons, going 83-79 in 2003, but is close to securing another winning campaign after a 2-1 victory in Friday's series opener against Texas (83-70).
The Royals scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning when Alcides Escobar , a .238 hitter, drew a bases-loaded walk off Neftali Feliz . It was the 17th victory in the last 25 games and 10th in 13 home contests for Kansas City, which trails by 2 1/2 games for the AL's final wild-card spot.
"Every game is so big, and that's what makes it fun," reliever Luke Hochevar said. "The intensity, the electricity in the ballpark that we've had during this push, it's been awesome."
The Royals will try to get even closer while sending Texas to its 15th loss in 19 games this month.
The Rangers had a two-game lead in the AL West at the end of August but are now one-half game behind in the wild card race.
"We've got to worry about winning ballgames," manager Ron Washington said.
Having Matt Garza (3-5, 4.94 ERA) on the mound might not help. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.83 ERA in his last five starts and hasn't made it past the fifth inning in each of his last two.
He was tagged for six runs and eight hits over 4 1-3 innings in a 6-2 loss in Tampa Bay on Monday.
"I'm letting my team down," he told the team's website said. "My job is to help us get to October, and I'm still going to do that, keep trying, keep working, keep pushing. There's no quit, just keep going and be ready in five days."
Garza is 1-5 with a 3.83 ERA in eight career starts against the Royals, whom he has not faced since 2010. He's 0-3 with a 4.18 ERA in four visits to Kauffman Stadium.
Jeremy Guthrie , meanwhile, will try to earn his third win in four decisions. He pitched a complete game Sunday in Detroit but suffered a 3-2 defeat.
Guthrie (14-11, 4.08) kept it competitive despite matching a career high by allowing 13 hits.
"I spent the whole game with guys on base pretty much," Guthrie said. "They chased some pitches out of the zone and helped me out."
Guthrie hasn't faced Texas since a 6-3 win at Kauffman on Sept. 4, 2012. He gave up two runs and five hits over seven innings in that game after going 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA in his previous four starts against the Rangers.
|September 09, 2013||Jim Adduci||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right biceps|
|September 09, 2013||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Left game - right leg cramping|
|August 25, 2013||Leonys Martin||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|August 20, 2013||Matt West||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|August 14, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 14, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|Kansas City Royals|
|September 17, 2013||Carlos Pena||60-Day DL||Appendectomy|
|September 16, 2013||Danny Duffy||Day-to-Day||Flexor tendon inflammation|
|September 08, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Strained left forearm|
|September 05, 2013||Salvador Perez||Day-to-Day||Concussion|
|September 03, 2013||Noel Arguelles||60-Day DL||Left shoulder|
|August 13, 2013||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Matt Garza decided it was time to stop thinking and start doing.
Garza pitched eight impressive innings for his first victory in six starts and the Texas Rangers kept close in the playoff race, beating the Kansas City Royals 3-1 Saturday night.
The Rangers won for only the fifth time in 19 September games to remain a half-game behind Cleveland for the second AL wild-card berth.
The Royals, out of the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, dropped 3 1/2 games in back of the Indians.
Adrian Beltre got two hits and drove in a run for Texas.
Garza (10-6) was 0-3 with an 8.22 ERA in his first three September starts. He pitched four-hit ball before giving up Eric Hosmer 's leadoff home run in the ninth and getting pulled.
"You're the only one who can do it," Garza said. "You're the one who has to wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror. I wasn't happy with what I saw. I just got back to being comfortable, back to being who was I was. It's a lot funnier this way. I can enjoy it a little more."
The plan Garza and catcher A.J. Pierzynski had was to keep it unsophisticated.
"He tried to keep it simpler," Pierzynski said after Garza gave up nine runs on 13 hits and six walks in 8 1-3 innings in his previous two starts. "He talked about an overload of information. We do a great job here of scouting reports. Matt is a simple guy. He wants to know the basics. I think sometimes when you give him too much, I think he overthinks himself.
"I think he tried to keep it simple today and be as aggressive as he can. We talked between starts and he executed to perfection except for obviously that home run."
The simple method worked for Garza.
"I was trying to do too much," Garza said. "I've just got to keep it simple. That's kind of been my whole thing and it's kind of who I am. I just went out there with a game-plan of attack, trust my stuff and let's go. It's no time to work on anything anymore. Let's go and it felt good."
Garza struck out five and walked one. He is 4-5 in 12 starts since the Rangers acquired him on July 22 in a trade with the Chicago Cubs .
"We were a little more than off-balance," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was really good. He was really pounding the strike zone. He threw, I think, 70 strikes and 27 balls. He had a good fastball, a really good slider and a good chase pitch. He was ahead all night. He pitched a really good game."
After Hosmer's 17th homer, Joe Nathan relieved. The Texas closer struck out two for his 40th save in 43 chances. Nathan posted his 41st career save against the Royals.
Jeremy Guthrie (14-12) allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings. He has permitted six runs and 20 hits in 14 innings in losing his past two starts.
Beltre's .374 career batting average at Kauffman Stadium is the highest for an opposing batter with at least 150 plate appearances.
Guthrie gave up a triple to Ian Kinsler to lead off the game. Kinsler scored on Elvis Andrus ' groundout.
In the third, Guthrie's control betrayed him when he walked Andrus and Alex Rios on eight pitches, and both scored.
Beltre bounced an RBI single up the middle and Pierzynski had a sacrifice fly.
"If I get that ball (Beltre's single) maybe we get that double play and we're still playing," Royals second baseman Emilio Bonifacio said.
The Royals had only one batter get past second base before Hosmer's homer. Jarrod Dyson tripled with two out in the fifth, but was stranded when Alcides Escobar looked at a called third strike.
NOTES: Craig Gentry had three hits and stole a base for the Rangers. He became the fourth different starting left fielder in as many games for Texas. The others were David Murphy , Joey Butler and Jim Adduci . ... Royals RHP James Shields , who starts Sunday, is 10-3 since June 28 after starting the season 2-6.