KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals won their eighth straight game and took over the AL Central lead Monday night when Yordano Ventura outdueled Sonny Gray during a 3-2 win over Oakland Athletics.
The victory, coupled with a loss by Detroit in Pittsburgh, gave the long-suffering Royals a division lead at the latest point in a season since 2003.
Alcides Escobar drove in a run in the second inning before delivering a two-out single off Gray (12-6) in the seventh, putting Kansas City in front and sending the crowd to its feet.
Kelvin Herrera (3-2) took over for Ventura and tossed spotless seventh inning, and Wade Davis breezed through the eighth. Greg Holland worked the ninth for his 35th save.
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.
It gave the Royals, eight games out of first place on July 21, their 16th win in 19 games.
Kansas City put pressure on right from the start, when Jarrod Dyson and Omar Infante opened the game with back-to-back singles. Gray might have escaped the jam, though, if right fielder Josh Reddick hadn't flubbed a routine throw to the infield after Infante's hit. It allowed Dyson to reach third base easily, and he scored on Salvador Perez's double-play groundout.
Escobar made it 2-0 in the second with the first of his two-out singles.
Oakland answered the next inning with significant help from Ventura, who worked to overcome command problems most of the night. John Jaso led off with a single, Coco Crisp worked a walk and Donaldson earned another free pass to load the bases with two outs.
Moss followed by hitting a full-count pitch up the middle to score both runners and knot the game 2-all.
Royals manager Ned Yost pulled Ventura after a double play got the rookie right-hander through the sixth inning. And when Gray faltered in the seventh to give Kansas City the lead, one of the best bullpens in baseball made sure the smallest of margins was enough.
Athletics: SS Jed Lowrie was back in the starting lineup. He's missed time recently with a bruised right index finger.
Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer continues to wear a brace on his right hand after breaking his third metacarpal. He hopes to return in September.
LHP Jon Lester, who beat the Royals in his first start with Oakland, tries to move to 3-0 since arriving from Boston in a July 31 trade. Kansas City counters with RHP Jeremy Guthrie.