A pair of big home runs and a three-run fifth inning put Cleveland on top and Josh Tomlin and three relievers would make the small advantage stand as the Indians claimed another series with a 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon.
The Tribe jumped out to a 1-0 lead just two pitches into the bottom of the first inning. Against Royals starter Edinson Volquez, Carlos Santana sent the second pitch of his at bat out to right, the 17th time in 28 games this season the Indians have scored first.
The lead would not last. Tomlin had faced one over the minimum with a pair of singles through the first three innings, but Lorenzo Cain got to work in the fourth with a double to left. Eric Hosmer worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2 and, on the eighth pitch of his AB, clobbered a Tomlin pitch to the bullpen in center to give the Royals a 2-1 lead. After retiring Kendrys Morales, Alex Gordon singled to center and scored on a double to deep center by Salvador Perez to push the lead to 3-1.
Cleveland immediately responded in the bottom half. Mike Napoli worked the count full and followed Hosmer’s lead, drilling a home run deep to the Home Run Porch in left leading off the inning to make it a 3-2 game. Lonnie Chisenhall and Marlon Byrd each singled with one out and advanced 90 feet on a groundout from Juan Uribe. Santana walked to load the bases and Jason Kipnis reached on an error at first by Hosmer that allowed the tying run to cross the plate…until a challenge from Ned Yost overturned the close play at first and erased the final run from the scoreboard.
Tomlin tore through the Royals in the top of the fifth and the Indians got back to work in the bottom of the inning after Francisco Lindor led things off with a single. He stole second and scored on a single from Michael Brantley to officially tie the game at three. Brantley moved to second on a walk by Napoli, then to third on a fielder’s choice from Yan Gomes that forced Napoli at second. Chisenhall then came up big, blooping a single into right to score Brantley. Volquez exited for reliever Danny Duffy, but Byrd continued his big day at the plate with a ground rule double into the seats in right center to score Gomes to give Cleveland a 5-3 lead. It nearly became six, but Alcides Escobar fielded a grounder by Uribe to short and threw home to cut down Chisenhall. Santana grounded to third to end the inning.
The Tribe’s starter had retired eight straight since the last KC run before Perez doubled to left to start the seventh inning, ending Tomlin’s afternoon. Manager Terry Francona called for Zach McAllister, who gave up an infield single to short to put two on. Christian Colon made it a one-run game with a double to left, scoring Perez with the Royals’ fourth run and bringing the tying run 90 feet from the plate. Jarrod Dyson grounded to short, but Lindor alertly charged on the ball and fired home, gunning down Cheslor Cuthbert trying to score. Francona made the walk to the mound again, this time turning to setup man Bryan Shaw, who got Escobar to ground into a double play to end the rally with the Indians still up, 5-4.
“It was great,” Shaw said. “You’re looking for a ground ball in that situation, but you know, with it being first and second, I was just more trying to get an out, get a fly ball, get whatever it was to get an out, and then go on from there. But, we got the double play. It was good.”
Shaw got another double play in the eighth. After a one-out walk by Hosmer, Morales struck out swinging and Hosmer was thrown out attempting to steal second. Cody Allen pitched the ninth, getting a fly out, a strike out of Perez, and a liner from Cuthbert to Lindor at short to end it for his eighth save in eight opportunities.
The Indians (15-13) finished their homestand 5-1, a solid improvement on their recently completed 4-5 road trip through Detroit, Minnesota, and Philadelphia. The Royals (14-14) return to the .500 mark once again and fall to 6-10 away from home.
LITTLE COWBOY RIDES AGAIN
Tomlin (5-0, 3.72 ERA) endured the early runs and gave the Indians six-plus innings on the mound, facing one batter in the seventh. He was charged with four runs on seven hits, issued no walks, and struck out three on the afternoon on an economical 81 pitches.
“Tomlin did a great job, working fast,” said Chisenhall. “Always fun to play behind him.”
Tomlin has now started 13 games over the last two seasons when appearing after an Indians loss. He is 12-0 in those contests.
Santana led off the game with his second leadoff home run of the season. The Indians are now 8-1 with Santana hitting as their leadoff hitter.
Eight of the nine Indians starters used pink bats on Sunday in honor of Mother’s Day.
GOTTA SCORE FIRST
Despite giving up their early lead on Sunday, the Indians fought back to claim both the win and the series win. The key for Cleveland’s success continues to be scoring first, as they improved to 13-4 when tallying the game’s first run.
“We’re being aggressive. Running some bases. Getting some timely hits,” said Chisenhall. “We got Brant back. He got a good RBI today. Frankie got a couple hits, stole a base. Our defense is picking us up. It’s been fun. We’ve been putting runs on the board and winning ball games.”
CHISENHALL STARTS IN CENTER, SURVIVES
After getting an inning of action in center field on Saturday, Chisenhall drew the starting assignment as captain of the outfield on Sunday. He spent the first seven innings in center before moving to right field when Rajai Davis entered the game as a defensive replacement for Byrd in the top half of the eighth.
“It was a great time, anytime we get to win a series against a tough team like this,” said Chisenhall. “I’m out there learning on the fly.
“I’m starting pitching tomorrow,” he added. “Don’t tell anybody.”
He was also productive at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a key RBI in the fifth that proved to be the deciding run.
VOLQUEZ CANNOT CLEAR FIVE
Volquez (3-3, 3.89) continued a 12-game stretch by all Royals starters not named Ian Kennedy of failing to earn wins. He lasted four and one-third innings on the afternoon and was charged with all five runs on seven hits. His pitch count was an issue early, as he threw 105 pitches (65 for strikes) while walking four and striking out four. The four walks matched a season high, while the two home runs allowed doubled his total allowed entering the day.
The last Royals win by someone else on the starting staff other than Kennedy was Yordano Ventura on April 24.
SAL ENDS SKID
KC catcher Perez, who had solid numbers against Tomlin in his career, ended an 0-for-9 at the plate with a pair of doubles in the game.
It’s time to hit the road for the Indians, who will head off to Houston to start a three-game series against the American League West’s current cellar dwellers, the Astros. Corey Kluber (2-3, 3.35) will look for his third win of the season on Monday. Mike Fiers (2-1, 5.35) will oppose for the Astros.
First pitch from Minute Maid Park is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Aaron Josefczyk