Gathright Leads Royals Past Indians 4-3

Saturday, September 29th 2007, 9:54 pm

By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ On the next-to-last day of the regular season, the Cleveland Indians absorbed a postseason setback.

Joey Gathright singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth, lifting the Kansas City Royals over Cleveland 4-3 Saturday night and ending the Indians' hope of getting home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.

The Indians already had clinched the AL Central title and were set to play the New York Yankees in the first round.

Cleveland's loss gave AL East champion Boston the home field. The Red Sox were to pick later Saturday night whether they wanted to open against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday or Thursday.

If the Indians start Wednesday, it would have enabled 19-game winners C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona to get two starts each in the five-game series against the Yankees.

Cleveland and Boston went into the final two games tied with 95-65 records. But the Red Sox, who own the tiebreaker over the Indians, beat Minnesota 6-4 earlier Saturday for their 96th win.

After Mike Sweeney led off the eighth with a single against Rafael Perez (1-2), pinch-hitter Esteban German laid down a bunt and appeared to be safe when the throw from catcher Victor Martinez hit the runner.

German was called out for running inside the base line and manager Buddy Bell was ejected for arguing. After Alex Gordon singled, Jensen Lewis relieved.

Shane Costa struck out before Gathright, whose trouble with the lights cost the Royals two early runs, singled home the tiebreaking run.

Joakim Soria (2-3) pitched the final two innings for the last-place Royals.

The Indians tied it 3-all in the eighth on Martinez's run-scoring single, his third RBI of the game.

The Royals scored three times in the first inning after David DeJesus led off by getting hit by a pitch for the 23rd time, extending his own team record. Mark Grudzielanek singled, Mark Teahen doubled in a run, another scored on Jake Westbrook's wild pitch and Gordon made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly.

The Royals had four different pitchers face five batters from the final out of the sixth inning to the final out of the seventh, and the strategy worked. Jimmy Gobble struck out Grady Sizemore to end the seventh with a runner on first.

In the Cleveland third, Martinez lifted a shallow fly ball to left-center. Gathright, the left fielder, lost it in the lights and the ball dropped for a two-run single.

Royals starter Gil Meche went six innings. He tied his season high with seven strikeouts and ended his first season in Kansas City with a respectable 3.67 ERA.

Meche labored through the first three innings, throwing 71 pitches. but he got through the fourth and fifth innings with only 19 pitches.

Ryan Garko tried to score from second with what would have been the tying run on Jhonny Peralta's single with two out in the sixth. But he was easily thrown out by Gathright, who's never been known for a strong arm.

Notes: It was Bell's fifth ejection this year. ... The Royals will finish last in the AL Central for the fourth year in a row. ... RHP Luke Hochevar, the overall No. 1 draft choice in 2006, will make his first major league start on Sunday for KC. ... The longest hitting streak in the AL this season will belong to Casey Blake. The Indians' third baseman hit in 26 straight from May 20 through June 17. ... The Indians had five hitters in their starting lineup with at least 21 home runs. The Royals had none.

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