Ervin Santana’s gem keeps Royals moving towards the AL Wild Card

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Royals starter Ervin Santana was once again excellent, blanking the Tigers over six and two-thirds innings of work. The right-hander allowed just five hits and walked one while striking out five. He was lifted in the seventh after recording the second out following back-to-back singles, though his pitch count was only at 83. Lefty Will Smith was brought in to face Alex Avila. Avila was pinch-hit for by Nick Castellanos, who flew out to end the inning.

The Royals got their only run in the first when Eric Hosmer tripled to center, scoring Alex Gordon. Otherwise, Tigers starter Doug Fister was excellent, throwing seven and two-thirds quality innings.

Luke Hochevar pitched a scoreless eighth for the Royals, lowering his ERA to 1.67. Greg Holland worked around a lead-off walk in the ninth for his 43rd save of the season, lowering his ERA to 1.33.

With the victory (their 14th in their last 20 games), the Royals improve to 78-70, moving them three games behind the Rays for the second AL Wild Card. They are now tied with the Orioles and a half-game behind the Yankees. The Indians are in the process of wrapping up a victory over the White Sox to move one game behind the Rays.

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

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Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.