CLEVELAND — Brandon Guyer was playing for a last-place team until a trade Aug. 1.
On Tuesday night, his first career game-ending hit moved his Cleveland Indians closer to their first AL Central title in nearly a decade.
Guyer singled in a run with two outs in the ninth inning, lifting the Indians over the Kansas City Royals 2-1 to reduce Cleveland’s magic number for the division to six.
Cleveland leads Detroit by seven games and hasn’t won the Central since 2007.
Guyer was acquired from the struggling Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline, and now he’s contributing to a team on the brink of the postseason.
“It’s kind of a first for me,” he said. “We’re loose and not thinking about it much, knowing if we go out and play our game, good things are going to happen.”
Guyer’s hit off Joakim Soria landed just fair in the right-field corner and scored Coco Crisp. Guyer was the third pinch-hitter of the inning used by manager Terry Francona.
Brian Flynn (1-2) walked Jose Ramirez to start the ninth, then fumbled a bunt by Crisp, batting for Lonnie Chisenhall, down the first-base line for an error.
Catcher Salvador Perez threw Ramirez out at third on Abraham Almonte’s sacrifice attempt. Rajai Davis, batting for Tyler Naquin, hit a hard ground ball that deflected off Soria’s foot and rolled to first baseman Eric Hosmer for the out.
Guyer, batting for Roberto Perez, then delivered with the winner that fell in despite a sliding effort by right fielder Paulo Orlando.
“I wasn’t sure if it was going to be fair or foul,” Guyer said. “I rounded first base and saw the umpire say fair and I started celebrating.”
The Royals, the reigning World Series champions, will be eliminated from contention in the division if they lose to Cleveland on Wednesday night.
“The ball was fair by a couple of inches, where you can’t get to it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Kansas City advanced a runner to third with one out in the eighth, but Andrew Miller (9-1) struck out pinch-hitter Christian Colon and Whit Merrifield before retiring the side in order in the ninth.
Carlos Santana led off the third with his 33rd home run. Alex Gordon’s RBI single tied the game in the fifth.
Royals starter Edinson Volquez gave up one run in 6 1/3 innings.
Indians starter Josh Tomlin allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings.
Tomlin, because of injuries to Carlos Carrasco (broken right hand) and Danny Salazar (strained right forearm), will be in the postseason rotation if the Indians advance. He began the season 9-1 but was sent to the bullpen after going 0-5 in August.
“Carrasco and Danny are a key part of that rotation,” Tomlin said. “We’re trying to do the best we can to help win the Central and get into the playoffs and play deep into the playoffs.”
CALL US BACK, OK?
Right-hander Tyler Plutko learned he was being promoted to the Indians in a most unusual fashion — while he was a groomsman in his best friend’s wedding Saturday in California.
“They had literally just got done saying ‘I do’ and taking pictures,” he said. “It was in the middle of the wedding. I couldn’t take the phone call right away, ended up calling them back and they said I got to get to Cleveland.”
Royals: OF Lorenzo Cain (left wrist inflammation), who last played on Sept. 9 at the White Sox, is traveling with the team.
Indians: Pitching coach Mickey Callaway said there’s a “small chance” Salazar will be available in the bullpen if Cleveland makes the playoffs. Salazar hasn’t pitched since Sept. 9 but played catch at 60 feet Tuesday.
Royals: RHP Ian Kennedy is unbeaten in his last 10 starts, going 5-0 with a 2.14 ERA. His last road loss occurred July 1 at Philadelphia.
Indians: RHP Corey Kluber seeks his career high-tying 18th victory. He is 9-5 with a 3.27 ERA in 15 home starts this season.