Lindor and Santana Support Merritt’s Strong Start; Indians 7, Royals 2
Bob Toth | On 30, Sep 2016
Carlos Santana came up a homer short of the cycle, Francisco Lindor busted out of his lengthy slump, and Ryan Merritt gave Cleveland five solid innings on the mound as the Indians gave the Kansas City Royals a rare home loss in a 7-2 final.
Kansas City would jump out to an early lead in the first against Merritt, making his first Major League start and just his fourth appearance in the Bigs this season, but the advantage would be short-lived for the Royals.
Billy Burns singled to left to start off the bottom of the first and moved to second on a sacrifice from Whit Merrifield. A single to right from Eric Hosmer scored the speedy Burns from second and the Royals had the edge just three batters into the home half.
Yordano Ventura struck out three through the first two innings and got a big double play ball in the first, but was unable to avoid trouble in the third.
Tyler Naquin singled the opposite way to left to start the frame and moved to second on a walk from Roberto Perez. Santana, who had doubled to straightaway center to start the game, tripled to the gap in right-center to score both base runners and give Cleveland a 2-1 lead. Jason Kipnis lifted a fly to shallow right, but deep enough to score Santana on converted outfielder Hunter Dozier as the Indians expanded their lead. Lindor kept the inning moving with a big double to the wall in right to end his lengthy 0-for-29 skid at the plate before he moved to third on a fly to right by Mike Napoli. With two down, Jose Ramirez nearly drove in Lindor with a slow grounder down the third base line that just rolled foul, but Ramirez came back and slashed a single to right to drive home Lindor to make it a 4-1 game.
That would be more than enough for the Indians on the night as Merritt (1-0, 1.64 ERA) would lock in after his nervous first inning, retiring each of the final 13 batters that he faced in his five-inning outing. He struck out five on the night, including the last two he faced and four of the last six.
Ventura (11-12, 4.45) kept the damage at a minimum for the Royals, keeping the Indians off of the scoreboard the rest of the way. He worked six innings on the night, allowing four runs on six hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Left-hander Brian Flynn took over on the mound in the seventh and ran into trouble quickly for the Royals. Perez reached on an infield single and moved to second on a throwing error from Flynn. Michael Martinez pinch-ran for him and moved to third on a single from Santana, his third hit of the night. After a strikeout of Kipnis, Lindor homered off of the foul pole in left. The three-run shot, his 15th of the season, opened the game up at 7-1 while thoroughly busting his slump.
Santana had one more at bat in the top of the eighth, looking for a homer to hit for the Indians’ second cycle of the season, but he grounded to third off of the left-hander Flynn to end the inning.
Kansas City got a run in the eighth off of the Indians bullpen as Dozier singled with one out off of Bryan Shaw before manager Terry Francona brought on Andrew Miller. Drew Butera placed perfectly a triple into the right field corner, scoring Dozier with the final run of the night.
Merritt earned the first win of his Major League career. The Cleveland bullpen worked four innings, allowing one run on two hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
The Indians (92-67) earned a much needed win for their pursuits of home field advantage in the playoffs, but they remain a half game behind the Boston Red Sox, who rallied late to overtake the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rangers clinched home field advantage over both the Indians and Red Sox with their 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
The Royals (81-79) lost a rare game at Kauffman Stadium – they dropped to 47-32 in Kansas City this season.
Prior to the game, the Indians announced that catcher Yan Gomes would be activated from the 60-day disabled list prior to the game. In a corresponding roster move, pitcher Carlos Carrasco was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for the returning catcher, effectively ending the starter’s 2016 season.
Gomes appeared late in the contest as a defensive replacement behind the plate, working two and a half uneventful innings in his first work at the Major League level since separating his shoulder against the Minnesota Twins on July 17. He later suffered a broken wrist when hit by a pitch in his final rehab start at Double-A.
Merritt was the first left-handed starter to start a game for the Indians since Bruce Chen on May 15, 2015.
The Indians will send right-hander Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26) to the mound for his final start of the regular season on Saturday. Bauer will make his first appearance against the Royals this season and is 1-2 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in six previous outings in his career. Edinson Volquez (10-11, 5.37) will toe the rubber for the Royals in his sixth start against the Indians this season. He is 1-2 this year against the Tribe with a 3.73 ERA and 1.34 WHIP while walking 18 batters in 31 1/3 innings.
Game two of the three-game set is scheduled for a 4:15 PM ET start from Kauffman Stadium.
Photo: AP Photo/Colin E. Braley