Tomlin Tames Royals, Tribe Reclaims First Place; Indians 7, Royals 1
Bob Toth | On 04, Jun 2016
The Cleveland Indians may have been wearing the beautiful throwback jerseys of the 1976 season on Saturday night, but they continued to play like it was 2016 as Josh Tomlin held the Royals in check and the Indians offense exploded for seven runs on Kansas City to claim a 7-1 victory.
More importantly, the win moved the Indians back into first place, taking a half game lead over the same Royals in the American League Central standings.
The Indians extended their winning streak to four games as Tomlin worked around base runners all game long and enabled his teammates to put up some big numbers late to take a third straight game from Kansas City. The Indians (30-24) reached a season-high six games above the .500 mark with the win and improved to 5-1 against the Royals this season. Kansas City (30-25) is now a game back in the loss column and has lost three straight games.
Cleveland got the scoring going in the second, providing the game’s only run until the sixth. Ian Kennedy, the only KC pitcher to defeat the Indians this season, was on the mound for the Royals and would prove to be a tough task again, at least for the majority of his start. He gave up a one-out single to right-center to Lonnie Chisenhall and an infield single to Rajai Davis. Tyler Naquin put together a very nice at bat, working the count full before drawing a walk to load the bases. It allowed Chris Gimenez to barrel up a fly to center, deep enough for Chisenhall to motor home with the first run of the contest.
Kennedy would retire 12 of the next 13 in order, allowing only a third inning double to Francisco Lindor in that span. Tomlin pitched with traffic all game long, allowing single runners to reach base in five of his first six innings, but that lone runner in each frame would move no further than second base at any time. He had just one 1-2-3 inning, which came in the top of the fifth.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Indians offense exploded and busted the game wide open. Lindor struck out to start the inning, but Mike Napoli hit another big home run to left to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. After a foul out from Jose Ramirez, Chisenhall got another rally started with a double to deep right. Davis singled to right and Chisenhall scored, just narrowly evading the tag of catcher Salvador Perez at the plate. Naquin followed with a big blast that just cleared the wall in right-center for a two-out, two-run home run to give Cleveland a 5-0 lead.
Tomlin ran into his first real trouble in the seventh, when Kendrys Morales led off the inning with a double and moved to third with one out on a single to right by Paulo Orlando. Reymond Fuentes singled to left to knock in Morales and Tomlin’s night was over. Jeff Manship came on and got a grounder to third and a liner to short to escape the two-on situation, leaving the score at 5-1 Indians.
For good measure, the Tribe added two more insurance runs in response in the bottom half of the seventh against reliever Scott Alexander, who took over for Kennedy to start the inning. After a grounder from Carlos Santana, Kipnis singled to center and trotted the rest of the way around the bases two pitches later as Lindor homered to left.
The two-run shot made it a 7-1 Tribe lead, one that Manship and Dan Otero would make stand the rest of the way. The tandem retired all eight batters they faced in order in some quality relief work on the night and were aided by a beautiful and unconventional 6-5-3 putout on first on a grounder in the ninth to a diving Lindor, playing on the right side of second base in a shift. He flipped the ball to third baseman Ramirez, who completed the play at first for the beauty of an out.
With the win, the Indians have now won six straight games in the American League Central Division and improved to 17-7 against their division rivals this season. It is the longest winning streak in the division by the Indians since May 6 to May 21, 2014, when they took six in a row from Minnesota and Detroit.
The Indians also improved to 23-6 when scoring first and 22-6 when scoring at least four runs in the 2016 season.
TOMLIN TOUGH ON CHAMPS
Tomlin (8-1, 3.54 ERA) had a terrific bounce back outing after his shortest outing of the season in his previous start. Despite base runners in six of the seven innings he pitched in, he allowed just one run to score. That run came in the seventh, the only inning that Tomlin allowed more than one base runner to reach base safely.
He ended the night with six and one-third innings worked. He allowed one run on seven hits, walked one batter, and struck out four with an even 100 pitches tossed, including 69 for strikes. Fifteen of the 27 batters he faced received a first pitch strike.
KENNEDY CONTAINED TRIBE, UNTIL LATE
Kennedy (4-4, 3.44) fell short in his effort to be the only Royals pitcher with a pair of wins against Cleveland this season as his offense did little to support him on the mound. A late four-run sixth would be too much for Kennedy and Kansas City to overcome as he took his first decision since a loss on May 12 against New York.
Kennedy worked six innings in the game and was charged with five runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out six. He allowed two home runs and plenty of balls in the air in general, as eleven outs were retired via fly balls and just one on the ground.
The homer in the sixth inning from Naquin was his second career home run and his second in as many games.
EXTRA BASES GALORE FOR LINDOR
Lindor was 3-for-4 on the night with a pair of doubles and a big two-run home run in the seventh inning to really erase all doubt in the game. It was the first time this season that an Indians player has had three extra base hits in the same contest.
MULTI-HIT EFFORTS FROM THE TRIBE
Davis was 3-for-4 for the Indians on Saturday night with three singles, a run scored, and one run batted in. Chisenhall had a single and double and scored twice, while Naquin had a single and homer, scored once, and drove in a pair.
PEREZ VERSUS TOMLIN
Perez made his return from inactivity with a surprise starting lineup spot on Saturday against Tomlin. After recovering quickly from a scary looking leg injury, the three-time All-Star backstop took to the plate against Tomlin owning a lifetime 11-for-17 mark (.647) with five doubles, a homer, and six RBI.
Perez had a single in the second and a double in the fourth, but struck out on a pitch in the dirt in his final at bat against Tomlin on the night.
The Indians will go for the four-game sweep over the reigning champs on Sunday afternoon when they send right-hander Corey Kluber (4-6, 4.15) to the mound. Kansas City will look to avoid that sweep and extended losing streak with lanky right-hander Chris Young (2-5, 5.94).
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images