KANSAS CITY -- There was a championship celebration at Kauffman Stadium on Monday night but, from the Royals' perspective, the champagne flowed in the wrong clubhouse.
The Detroit Tigers clinched the American League Central title with a 6-3 victory over Kansas City with just two days remaining on the schedule. The Tigers got a game-deciding three-run double from Gerald Laird and solo home runs from Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta.
The Royals, sitting silently in their dugout, hung around for a few minutes to watch the Tigers cavort around the mound after the final out.
"I feel sad for my team," Royals catcher Salvador Perez said. "I just feel like I want to be there one day. ... We will be there soon. I feel that."
Did manager Ned Yost think that witnessing the Tigers celebrate might be a good lesson for his team?
"No, I want 'em to feel it," Yost said. "We can witness it all we want. We want to be there and feel it."
The Royals haven't experienced such feelings since the 1985 World Series championship celebration, which took place before many of the current Royals were born.
A win was necessary for the Tigers after their rivals, the Chicago White Sox, had posted an 11-0 victory earlier in the evening at Cleveland.
At one point, in late August, it seemed as if Kansas City might help stymie Detroit's bid because a three-game sweep by the Royals left the Tigers three games behind the White Sox.
More recently, however, the Tigers' path to the title was made easier when five straight wins over the Royals were included in their last eight games. Detroit also won two of three at Minnesota before coming to KC.
"That's what baseball's all about: races," Laird said. "And Chicago battled us to the end. They've got a good ballclub over there. We knew they weren't going to go away. They got up three games about a week and a half ago, but we didn't panic. We just played our game, and we got some help from other teams and were able to play good baseball."
The Tigers' Rick Porcello and the Royals' Bruce Chen were locked in a scoreless duel through the first four innings. But Peralta ended that in the top of the fifth when he sent Chen's first pitch soaring over the left-field fence.
The sixth inning, launched by Cabrera's one-out home run, decided things. The Tigers' Triple Crown aspirant lined his 44th homer into the right-field bullpen on an 0-1 pitch from Chen. That brought a big cheer from a sizable contingent of Detroit fans in the crowd of 15,312 and a "MVP!" chant. It also was one of Cabrera's four hits which raised his average to a league-leading .329.
Prince Fielder followed with a double just out of center fielder David Lough's reach. Alex Gordon made a diving catch of Delmon Young's looper for the second out, but Peralta's drive to center was dropped by Lough for an error and Fielder scored.
"I turned the wrong way and I heard 'Back!' so I thought it was a ball that was hit really well so I turned for it, went back and I looked up and it was starting to come down," Lough said. "That's when I stopped and it just took an immediate dive. When I tried to catch it, it was just too low and it just went in and right back out. It cost us which I feel terrible about."
So the inning continued, Andy Dirks singled in Fielder and the throw home was taken by Perez who fired to second base. Dirks slid in on a close play and was called safe by umpire Mike Winters, a decision that Yost questioned.
Avisail Garcia was walked to load the bases which were immediately unloaded by Laird's double into the left-field corner. The three runs gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead and ended Chen's outing. Four of the five runs in the inning were unearned.
"We misplayed a ball in center which [if caught] Bruce would've got out of it with just giving up one run," Yost said. "The umpire missed a call at second base and he would've got out of it with just two runs in that situation."
Chen will lead the Royals' staff in victories for the third straight year with 11, but he fell shy of matching the 12 wins he had in each of the previous two seasons.
The Royals got on the board in the sixth as Gordon led off with a home run, his 14th, into the right-field bullpen. That ended Porcello's outing and the Royals loaded the bases against reliever Al Alburquerque, but got just one more run out of it.
They added a third run in the eighth against Joaquin Benoit on singles by Gordon, Perez and Jeff Francoeur. However, Francoeur was thrown out trying for second to end the inning and that was costly.
"I saw Sal go to third and I thought (center fielder Austin) Jackson was kind of lollygagging and maybe that's something you try in the third, fourth inning but not the eighth," Francoeur said. "But it was a stupid play and it cost us a chance to have the tying run up there."
It wasn't long before the Royals were watching the Tigers' victory dance.
"It's never fun to see someone celebrate on your own turf," Gordon said. "But maybe it gives some guys some motivation, that they want to be there. You should already be that way but maybe that gives you a little extra motivation to see them celebrate and having fun out there."
Maybe so. Are the Royals that far away from celebrating themselves?
"We're making steps," Gordon said. "We've still got a long ways to go to catch teams like the Tigers. And the White Sox had a good year, too. We've got some work to do."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.