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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A rarely-used backup infielder who never even got into the game made the play of the day for the Detroit Tigers.
From the dugout, Hernan Perez spotted that a Kansas City runner failed to tag up. That set off a wild sequence Saturday that resulted in an out instead of the go-ahead score — plus a lot of discussion — as Detroit beat the Royals 3-2 to boost its AL Central lead.
Winning pitcher Max Scherzer said he'd reward the 23-year-old Perez, who spent most the year in the minors and has only three at-bats this season in the majors.
"Whatever he wants — dinner, lunch, breakfast, drinks, you name it," Scherzer said. "That's a one-in-a-million play. It's unbelievable that we had someone on the bench be astute enough to see that."
Joe Nathan escaped a ninth-inning jam as the Tigers increased their edge to 2 1/2 games over the Royals.
Kansas City fell into a tie for the second wild-card spot with Seattle, which played later at Houston.
Detroit, seeking its fourth straight division title, has won 13 of 18 against the Royals this year, including eight of nine at Kauffman Stadium.
It was 1-all in the Royals sixth when things got crazy.
With Salvador Perez on third and Eric Hosmer on second with one out, Omar Infante lined out to second baseman Ian Kinsler. Trying for a double play, Kinsler threw to shortstop Eugenio Suarez and the ball sailed into left field.
Perez, who had been trying to get back to third after the catch, reversed course, headed home and appeared to score the tiebreaking run.
"I have to give credit where credit is due," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Hernan Perez was the guy who initially noticed it, sitting on the bench watching the game."
"That's how it all started," he said.
Scherzer (17-5) got back on the mound and made an appeal throw to third, saying that Perez never tagged up. Third base umpire and crew chief Larry Vanover called Perez safe, prompting Ausmus to ask for video review challenge.
"You have to appeal. They called him safe on the appeal. I told Larry Vanover, 'We're appealing that Perez never went back and touched the bag.'"
"There was some discussion on whether that's a challengeable play, because a tag-up on a fly ball is not. This wasn't a case whether a guy left early. This was a missed base, which is challengeable," he said.
The umpires checked with the replay booth in New York, and were told the play was indeed not reviewable.
On the videoboard, meanwhile, a replay was displayed that clearly showed Perez never tagged up. The umpires gathered again and reversed their original call, ruling Perez out and ending the inning.
"We started talking about what happened," Vanover said in a statement. "We walked through the play. We took a consensus of the information, out of that crew consultation, we came up with the answer that he didn't tag up."
"Originally, I thought he was coming back, so I ruled safe on the appeal, but now after the crew consultation we took a consensus of the information."
Said Vanover: "The crew was like 75 percent that you can't review that, but we weren't 1,000 percent. And in that situation, I didn't want to not go to the headset and ask to review it when I could have. I wanted to make darn sure I didn't mess that up."
Salvador Perez said it was a confusing sequence.
"I don't know what the rule is there in that situation. I never see something like that before. It's never happened to me before," he said.
Royals manager Ned Yost said the team wouldn't contest the call any further.
"You can't protest a judgment call," Yost said.
Pinch-hitter Tyler Collins and Rajai Davis hit RBI singles in the seventh off James Shields (14-8).
Jarrod Dyson and Alcides Escobar singled with one out in the Royals ninth. They moved up on Nori Aoki's groundout and were stranded on pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez's grounder, giving Nathan his 33rd save in 40 tries.
Torii Hunter opened the Tigers' fourth with his 17th home run. He also singled in the sixth for his sixth straight multihit game, the longest streak of his career.
Escobar hit an RBI single in the fifth and Hosmer singled home a run in the eighth.
Aoki, who was 13 for 16 in the past four games, put down sacrifice bunts in first and third innings, but the Royals failed to convert that into a run off Scherzer.
Tigers: RHP Anibal Sanchez, who has not pitched since Aug. 8 because of a right pectoral strain, will throw a simulated game Sunday. ... C Alex Avila remains sidelined with concussion-like symptoms and has not played since Sunday.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy, who has missed his past two starts with a sore shoulder, threw a bullpen session in the ninth inning Friday and is scheduled to rejoin the rotation Tuesday at Cleveland.
Tigers: Sunday starter Rick Porcello is 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA in three starts this season against the Royals.
Royals: RHP Jeremy Guthrie gave up eight runs, six earned, on 10 hits and one walk in 2 2-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season, in a Sept. 8 start at Detroit.
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