KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Each win moves the Royals one step closer to the end of their long playoff drought, and Sunday was a big one.
Nori Aoki hit a two-run triple, and Kansas City beat the Detroit Tigers 5-2 to avoid a sweep in the weekend series between the AL Central's top teams.
"Today's game shows that we're not going away," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They have that feeling. They had that feeling this morning that they knew this was going to be a big game. They had a lot of confidence in themselves when they hit the field."
Kansas City pulled within 1 1/2 games of Detroit for the top spot in the division. The Royals, looking for their first playoff appearance since they won the World Series in 1985, also stayed in position for a wild card.
The Tigers finish the season at home with seven games against Chicago and Minnesota.
"Hopefully we'll come home and it'll get loud," Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said. "It's going to be fun. It shouldn't be hard to get pumped up. If you don't have that adrenaline now you're not human. You should check your pulse."
Aoki's tiebreaking triple in the fourth scored Omar Infante and Mike Moustakas, making it 4-2 and chasing Rick Porcello from the game.
"It would have been nice to get two or three wins (against Detroit), but one win means we're still in good position," Aoki said. "We're going to play our best and leave it all out on the road."
Porcello (15-12) is 0-4 in his past five starts. He yielded nine hits and walked two in 3 1-3 innings.
Kansas City's Jeremy Guthrie (12-11) pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the second and was pulled after 81 pitches and 5 1-3 innings, yielding one earned run.
The Royals' dominant bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland held the Tigers scoreless after Guthrie exited.
Davis struck out two, bringing his total to 103, tying a Royals record for a reliever. Holland threw a perfect ninth for his 43rd save in 45 chances, and his first since Sept. 3.
"We really needed that victory," Holland said.
Alex Gordon added an RBI double in the seventh for Kansas City, snapping an 0-for-14 slump.
"It was a big game, but this team's not going anywhere," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We've been fighting all season, we're not going to take one bad series at the end and fold."
Ian Kinsler hit his 16th homer in the third for the Tigers.
J.D. Martinez scored in the fourth on an error by Moustakas at third base. Moustakas has committed six errors in the past 12 games.
"It's hard to sweep and it's difficult in their ballpark," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I'm happy with two of three and now we'll go home."
FANS SHOW UP
All three games with the Tigers drew 37,000-plus, bringing the Royals' home attendance to 1,915,482 for 81 dates. That's the most fans the Royals have drawn since 1991.
Tigers: RHP Anibal Sanchez (right pectoral strain) pitched a three-inning simulated game. If he feels good Monday, he likely would be activated this week with a role to be determined.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy, who has missed his previous two starts with a sore shoulder, will return to the rotation Monday, starting at Cleveland.
Tigers: Rookie LHP Kyle Lobstein, who has walked 11 and struck out 18 in 27 2-3 innings, will start the series opener at home against the White Sox on Monday night.
Royals: Kansas City will need to rally quickly when it plays in Cleveland on Monday. The teams will resume their game that was suspended by rain Aug. 31 in Kansas City, with the Indians leading 4-2 going to the bottom of the 10th. The Royals and Cleveland will then play their regularly scheduled game.