KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals finished this season a long way from where they finished last season.

In time, location and record.

Instead of capping a World Series championship on a crisp November night in New York, the Royals ended their year with a 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians on a mild Sunday afternoon in early October.

It left them 81-81, their first non-winning season in four years.

“We were just one win away from having a winning season,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We had four cracks at it at the end of the year and just couldn’t get it. Offensively, we just couldn’t do it.”

The Tigers’ loss to the Braves coupled with the Red Sox’s loss to the Blue Jays gave Cleveland (94-67) homefield advantage in the divisional round. The newly minted AL Central champions open against Boston (93-69) on Thursday at Progressive field with Trevor Bauer slated to take the hill.

“You get to the last weekend of the year, you see a lot of guys kind of tailing off,” said Francona, who has yet to win a postseason game in Cleveland. “Our guys never did that.”

Not even in their regular-season finale.

Josh Tomlin (13-9) dueled with the Royals’ Ian Kennedy (11-11) into the eighth before finally pulling ahead. Carlos Santana drew a walk off Kennedy to start the inning, Jason Kipnis followed with a double and Francisco Lindor hit a fly ball deep enough to right field for the lead.

Tomlin got the first batter in the eighth before Andrew Miller finished it up, and Cody Allen handled the ninth to earn his 32nd save and give the Indians a nice boost heading into the playoffs.

“I’ve never really experienced the postseason,” said T

omlin, the expected Game 3 starter,” so I know I’ll be ready when that time comes. We knew we put ourselves in good position.”

It was a frustrating finale to an injury plagued season for the Royals, who had been to the past two World Series and were coming off their first championship since 1985. A dismal July nearly buried them, an inspired August got them back into contention, and a stumbling finish left them at .500.

Meanwhile, there were so many playoff permutations riding on the final day of the regular season that Francona was still trying to sort everything out 3 hours before first pitch.

The only thing he knew was his club was playing Boston on Thursday — somewhere.

So, the Indians chose to focus solely on a club they’ve dominated this season.

They fell into a 1-0 hole when Jarrod Dyson and Whit Merrifield opened the game with doubles off Tomlin, the expected Game 3 starter in the divisional series, but the lead didn’t even last the two innings.

The Indians answered in the third when Tyler Naquin was plunked by a pitch from Kennedy, and Yan Gomes went deep to left field on the first big league pitch he’d seen since July 17.

Kansas City tied it up when Cheslor Cuthbert homered leading off the fifth inning.

Tomlin wound up allowing two runs on six hits in 7 1/3 innings, retiring the final 10 he faced. Kennedy retired 13 in a row during a similar stretch, giving up three runs on four hits in 7 2/3 innings.

“One mistake, I gave up a home run and it kind of cost me,” Kennedy said. “Overall, I was really happy how the outing went. At least, I gave our team a real solid chance.”


Indians: Gomes, activated from the 60-day DL on Friday, started for the first time since breaking his right hand in a rehab game Sept. 14. “It’s been a long way back,” Gomes said. “They said I can’t hurt it any more. You’ll just have to play through it, play through the pain.”

Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer missed the finale with a wrist issue he’s been battling for weeks. C Sal Perez was the DH to protect an ailing hamstring. … RHP Dillon Gee is scheduled to have another procedure Oct. 11 for blood clots in his shoulder and lung. The issue popped up during a start in Detroit.


Indians: The chase begins for their first playoff victory since 2007, when they lost to the Red Sox — managed by Francona — in a seven-game AL championship series.

Royals: Time to think about next season. General manager Dayton Moore has some roster decisions to make, including whether to exercise team options on SS Alcides Escobar and RHP Wade Davis.