Six-Run Seventh Completes Kansas City Sweep; Indians 8, Royals 4
Bob Toth | On 04, Jul 2019
A six-run outburst by the Indians in the seventh inning proved to be enough as Cleveland completed a three-game sweep over the Kansas City Royals in an 8-4 final on Thursday.
The Indians (48-38) moved to a season-high ten games above even and cut their deficit in the American League Central Division down to six games, coupled with a Minnesota loss in Oakland for the second time in three days. The Indians’ bullpen picked up for rookie righty Zach Plesac when he was unable to make it through the third inning and stopped the bleeding, holding the Royals to just a run on four hits over the final six and one-third innings.
The Royals got to Plesac for three in the third to take a 3-1 lead. After a strikeout to open the inning, Cam Gallagher singled to right. A walk by Terrance Gore put the tying and go-ahead runs on base and Whit Merrifield tied the score with a single that deflected off of Plesac out to right-center field to score Gallagher from second. Adalberto Mondesi dropped down a bunt, but Plesac was not able to get the speedy Gore at the plate and his flip to Bobby Bradley at first failed as Bradley was not at the bag. Plesac recovered to get Alex Gordon with a line out to first, but a walk by Hunter Dozier loaded the bases. After getting ahead of Jorge Soler, Plesac could not finish him off and instead walked him to force in a third run and bring manager Terry Francona out from his dugout. A.J. Cole cauterized the situation, striking out Cheslor Cuthbert swinging to leave the bags full.
Homer Bailey had kept the Indians at bay for much of the first third of the game, giving up a homer to Jose Ramirez to lead off the second that just cleared the right field wall to give the Indians their early lead. Pitching with the lead for the first time in the fourth, he worked around a Carlos Santana single to start the inning by retiring the next three.
After Cole worked around a two-out double by Gore in the fourth, the Indians chipped into the deficit. With one down, Bradley doubled to center. A wild pitch moved him 90 feet from the plate and Tyler Naquin walked to put runners on the corners. Francisco Lindor came through with the timely hit, slapping a single through the right side to score Bradley to make it a 3-2 game. Oscar Mercado grounded the next pitch to short, starting a big 5-4-3 double play to end the rally, leaving his helmet spiked to the Missouri turf.
Bailey exited after a leadoff double from Santana in the sixth, but Tim Hill entered the game for Ned Yost and shut down the Tribe lineup on two grounders and a strikeout of Jake Bauers to leave the tying run in scoring position.
Tyler Clippard and Adam Cimber escaped a threat in the bottom of the sixth after Cuthbert reached on a double to left with one out. Clippard retired Nicky Lopez on a fly to left and Francona turned to Cimber, who got a grounder to end it.
The Tribe put together a big rally in the seventh against Jorge Lopez of the Royals’ bullpen. Kevin Plawecki singled to right-center with his second hit of the day. Bradley added his second hit of the day with a single to center to put two runners on. Naquin dropped in a double to right to score Plawecki to tie the game. Lindor laced the next pitch to center to score a pair to give Cleveland a 5-3 lead. Yost came back to the mound for Wily Peralta, but he was unable to slow down the Tribe as Lindor stole second and scored as Mercado’s sacrifice bunt was thrown away by the catcher Gallagher. Mercado moved to second on the error and to third on a groundout by Santana before a sacrifice fly from Jason Kipnis scored the rookie outfielder. Ramirez, the eighth man to bat in the inning, got in on the fun as well, driving a payoff pitch from Lopez the opposite way to right for his second homer of the day, extending the Tribe lead to 8-3 with the six-run inning.
Cimber pitched a perfect seventh, striking out Merrifield and Mondesi. He came back out for the eighth after a brief threat by the Tribe in the top half and got the first two before Soler walked and Cuthbert singled. Lopez grounded into a force out at second to end that threat.
Nick Wittgren pitched the ninth, giving up a leadoff homer to Gallagher before retiring Gore, Merrifield, and Mondesi to wrap up the sweep.
Cimber was given his fourth win of the season with two and one-third innings of scoreless relief out of the bullpen for the Indians. He allowed just one hit and one walk and struck out three while throwing 23 of his 30 pitches for strikes. Plesac was unable to get back on track after his shortest career start his last time out by going just two and two-thirds on Thursday afternoon. He exited after giving up three runs on three hits with three walks and a strikeout after losing his early command of the strike zone. During the third, Plesac talked with the home plate umpire and had the trainer bring out a towel because of his difficulty gripping the ball on a humid Kansas City afternoon.
Bailey left after one batter in the sixth. He worked five-plus, allowing two runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts in his second start of the year against the Indians. He did not factor in the decision. The loss went to Lopez, who dropped to 1-7 with his first blown save of the year. He allowed four runs on four hits and did not retire a batter.
Five Indians put up multi-hit games at the plate, led by Lindor at the top of the lineup. In the second, Lindor got the Indians out of a potential situation with a highlight reel play. Dozier reached on an error as Ramirez’s throw went through Bradley’s glove. Soler flied out before Cuthbert shot a rocket up the middle. Lindor ranged to his left and made a diving stop, made a beautiful glove flip to Kipnis at second, and his keystone partner fired to first for the inning-ending double play. At the dish, he had two singles and a walk, scoring once and driving in three.
“They were just letting us hang around and hang around,” Francona said after the game, “and all of a sudden some good things happen, and we have a big inning and it snowballs from there.”
Santana extended his hitting streak to ten straight and his on-base streak to 27 in a row with two hits and two walks in five trips. He has reached base safely in every game played since June 4. Ramirez had a pair of homers to give him seven on the year. Plawecki and Bradley both added two hits each.
The start of the game was delayed by more than two and a half hours due to rain in the area. After scoring just two runs in their last series with Baltimore, the Indians put up 21 during the week against Kansas City.
The Indians will take a rare Friday off before starting a two-game series in Cincinnati with the Reds on Saturday in the final two games before the All-Star break. The Royals head to the Capital to open a three-game series with the Nationals to close out their first half.
Photo: Reed Hoffman/Getty Images