CLEVELAND (AP) — Rookie Drew Waters belted a three-run homer off Kirk McCarty in the 10th inning, sending the Kansas City Royals to a 5-2 victory over the AL Central champion Cleveland Guardians on Monday night.
Waters’ third home run in four games landed on the porch in left field, scoring automatic runner Nicky Lopez and Michael A. Taylor. The 23-year-old outfielder went 2 for 4 with four RBIs as Kansas City won for the second time in seven games.
“I wasn’t trying to hit a homer, I was just trying to make contact and get the guy in from third,” said Waters, who has four of his five homers against the Guardians. “But it was a dead-red fastball and I happened to have some good luck.”
Cleveland has won 11 of 14 and is an MLB-best 22-6 since Sept. 5. The Guardians will host either Tampa Bay or Seattle in a best-of-three wild-card series beginning Friday.
Closer Scott Barlow (7-4) pitched a scoreless ninth and Taylor Clarke worked the 10th, earning his third save. McCarty (4-3) allowed three runs, two earned, in two innings.
“How about Drew Waters? He’s been all-in and the guys have a lot of fun with him,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He enjoys the competition and is just an intelligent, exciting player.”
Kansas City right-hander Zack Greinke, who is headed into free agency, went six innings, allowing one earned run and one unearned run. The 39-year-old struck out one, threw three wild pitches, and stabbed a liner by Owen Miller that was headed for his face.
Greinke ranks 20th all-time with 2,882 strikeouts and is tied for 73rd with 223 wins, but remained non-committal about his future in the sport.
“I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen,” Greinke said. “I don’t know at the moment. We do like the city and (the franchise) has treated me and my family really good this year. Professionally, it’s been an enjoyable season.”
Regardless of where, and if, Greinke pitches in 2023, his manager knows where he will eventually end up.
“No question, he’s headed to the Hall of Fame,” Matheny said.
Bobby Witt Jr. singled and stole his AL rookie-best 30th base for Kansas City, but also committed a fielding error in the sixth that permitted Cleveland to tie the game.
Oscar Gonzalez and Will Brennan had two hits apiece for the Guardians. Brennan is batting .351 with one homer and seven RBIs in 10 games since his Sept. 21 recall from Triple-A Columbus.
“Good young players grow, and you kind of see it right in front of your eyes,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “It’s very satisfying.”
Triston McKenzie, who will start the second game of the wild-card series for Cleveland, allowed one run in five innings. The right-hander struck out four without a walk, completing his regular season with an 11-11 record and 2.96 ERA.
“I tried to use tonight as a tester, just trying to get my mind right for the playoffs,” McKenzie said. “There are a lot of nerves for everybody, even moving into this last stretch of games before the playoffs.”
ONE OF A KIND
Former AL Cy Young winner Greinke, who broke into the majors with Kansas City in 2004, signed a one-year contract on March 16. He made his 500th career start on June 29 against Texas and threw his 50,000th pitch on July 10 against Cleveland.
Known for his eccentricities, Greinke roamed the field in shorts, an oversized long-sleeve shirt and high socks on the chilly, windy afternoon.
“Zack is so unique and so real because he’s not trying to impress anybody,” Matheny said. “The young guys have used him as a resource, but the thing with him is, you better be careful what you ask because he’ll tell you.”
Royals: C Salvador Perez (left thumb soreness) missed his second straight game after feeling discomfort in his surgically repaired thumb Saturday. Matheny said the seven-time All-Star is being monitored and has not been ruled out for the year.
Royals: LHP Daniel Lynch (4-12, 4.96 ERA) seeks his first victory in his fifth career start against the Guardians. Lynch is 0-2 with an 8.66 ERA against Cleveland, including an 8-3 road loss on May 31 in which he allowed six runs in four innings.
Guardians: RHP Cal Quantrill (14-5, 3.42 ERA) can break the Progressive Field record for the longest winning streak by a pitcher. Quantrill is 13-0 in his career at the ballpark, tying him with Charles Nagy, who won 13 in a row from 1995-1996.