Three wins in four games allowed Kansas City to celebrate an AL Central title on Thursday. A few days later, the Royals have pushed what was inevitable aside and are back to worrying about the bigger picture.
Following a pair of ugly home losses to the wild card-hopeful Cleveland Indians, Kansas City will try to regain its edge for home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the series finale on Sunday.
Kansas City (89-65) secured a division title with a 10-4 victory over Seattle on Thursday, but that is one of just seven wins in the last 21 games. The two latest defeats dropped the Royals into a tie with Toronto for the AL's top record, good for home field as long as they're in the postseason.
Toronto holds the tiebreaker with a 4-3 advantage in the season series and eight games remaining.
''We'll see," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "We've got to go out and win baseball games. That'll take care of everything.''
The Royals can feel good about last year, when they entered the AL wild-card game with a 10-10 record before rattling off a record eight straight playoff wins. They won't feel as good about their last two.
Kansas City mustered just one hit while striking out 15 times in a 6-0 loss against Carlos Carrasco in the series opener, and allowed 12 hits in a 9-5 defeat on Saturday.
The Royals' ERA was 3.53 before Sept. 3, but it is 5.58 since. Kansas City starters hold a 6.30 ERA in the last 22 games, something the Royals hope a familiar, yet fresh face can help with in the series finale.
Veteran Chris Young beat out rookie Miguel Almonte for the job to replace the struggling Jeremy Guthrie in Kansas City's rotation, and he will make his first start since July 28.
Young (10-6, 3.29 ERA) went 7-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 16 starts from early May to late July but has spent the last month and a half in the bullpen. His most recent start came in Cleveland, where he surrendered one run in 4 2-3 innings of a 2-1 win.
The Indians handed Young his second loss of the year when they tagged him for six runs in five innings of a 6-2 win on June 4. Young has a 6.60 ERA in his last three starts against Cleveland.
The Indians (77-76) moved above .500 for the first time since April 9 with their fifth win in the last seven games against Kansas City. Cleveland has won three straight overall and is three games behind Houston for the second wild card.
''It's been a lot of hard work those guys have gone into to get us back to kind of being respectable and being in this race," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Cleveland hands the ball to Danny Salazar for the finale. Salazar (13-9, 3.51) finally quieted Eric Hosmer en route to a 5-1 win over the Royals on Sept. 16, holding them to one run in seven innings. Hosmer went 0 for 3 with a walk after homering off the right-hander in the first two matchups earlier this year - a win and a loss for Salazar after he allowed eight runs in 13 innings.
Hosmer's seven-game hitting streak was snapped on Saturday, but he is hitting .355 since Sept. 18. The first baseman is 7 for 17 against Salazar with two homers and three doubles.
Salazar has a 5.11 ERA in his last four starts against the Royals despite striking out 30 in 24 2-3 innings.