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: Orioles interested in Alex Cobb

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MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.

Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.

It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.