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Chen pitches Royals to win in season finale

By JAY COHEN

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Kansas City Royals think this is only the beginning. Wait until next year comes around.

Bruce Chen pitched a four-hit ball game into the seventh inning and Kansas City beat the Chicago White Sox 4-1 on Sunday in the finale of the Royals' best season in 24 years.

"It's a good start. I think we're making progress as an organization," said manager Ned Yost, who completed the final season of his contract but is expected to return next year. "Ten games over .500, it's a significant first step and we need to continue to build on it."

Kansas City won three of four in Chicago and went 17-10 in September for its most successful month of the season. The Royals' 86-76 record was their best mark since they went 92-70 in 1989.

"This team came out every game and expected to win every game regardless of what happened the night before," said Greg Holland, who got three outs for his 47th save. "We got to grind it out that way; that's how you get in the playoffs. We came up short but I think going into next spring we're going to be pretty happy with where we're at."

Chen's sharp outing put a damper on what might have been the last major league game for White Sox captain Paul Konerko, who is eligible for free agency and isn't sure if he will play again next year. The veteran first baseman is second in franchise history with 427 homers and 1,361 RBIs, and third with 2,249 hits.

Konerko was greeted with loud cheers when he was introduced with the starting lineup, and the crowd of 22,633 saluted the slugger with a standing ovation when he came to the plate in the first. He was replaced by Conor Gillaspie with one out in the top of the second, and he stopped to shake pitcher Jose Quintana's hand as he left the field to more cheers.

"It always feels good. The fans here have treated me great over the years," said Konerko, who tweaked his back during Saturday night's 6-5 victory, leading to the quick hook in the finale. "In a year like this, they treated me better than probably I deserved, really the whole team when you think about it."

Konerko waved his hat to the crowd as he made his way to the dugout. With the Royals also standing and clapping on the other side, the six-time All-Star acknowledged the long ovation with a brief curtain call.

"We'll see how I feel in a month or a month and a half from now," Konerko said about his future, "and try to come to grips with what's what."