A three-run eighth inning, capped by a two-run double from Francisco Lindor, pushed the Cleveland Indians past the Kansas City Royals, 6-3, on Saturday afternoon.
Every game matters for the Indians, who are looking to claim home field advantage in their upcoming ALDS series with the Boston Red Sox, and the Cleveland club has refused to slow down or give up despite a slew of injuries that has knocked out three-fifths of its starting rotation.
Trevor Bauer was on the mound for the Tribe, making his final start of the regular season. He pitched a good ball game, save it for a two-run sixth inning that allowed the Royals back into the game.
Cleveland took the lead in the second off of Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez. A walk to Coco Crisp, the second in as many innings from Volquez, started the inning. Crisp stole second and came in to score on a single to right by Tyler Naquin to give the Indians the early lead. With nobody out, Roberto Perez bunted to the pitcher but the sacrifice was botched as Volquez fired to second to cut down the lead runner. Carlos Santana followed with a double to put two in scoring position, but Jason Kipnis struck out swinging and Lindor flied to left to leave two big runs on the base paths.
The Indians got another run in the third on a gift from the Royals. With two outs, Lonnie Chisenhall tripled and would score four pitches later on a wild pitch from Volquez, giving Cleveland a two-run advantage.
Kansas City put three straight two-out hits together in the bottom of the third to cut the deficit. Drew Butera singled to left and Jarrod Dyson singled to right before Whit Merrifield drove in the Royals’ first run of the night with a single to left to make it a 2-1 game.
Chisenhall came up big again for the Indians in the fifth as another walk came around to haunt the Royals. Lindor walked to start the inning and moved to third on a one-out single to right by Jose Ramirez. Chisenhall’s sacrifice fly to left drove home the Indians’ All-Star shortstop to make it 3-1.
Bauer ran into trouble in the fifth, walking a pair with one out before getting out of the jam. His luck was not the same in the sixth, when three of the first four hitters of the inning reached base to tie the game. Kendrys Morales doubled to right center before a Paulo Orlando double drove him in to make it 3-2. Alex Gordon struck out swinging on three pitches, but Alcides Escobar jumped on the first pitch of his at bat and drove an RBI-single to left to tie the game at three.
The Cleveland bullpen had a scare in the bottom of the seventh, when Jeff Manship took over for Bauer and struck out Butera before a double by Dyson and a walk of Merrifield. Mike Clevinger entered in relief and got a key fielder’s choice grounder to third to cut down the lead runner before he struck out Orlando swinging on three pitches to end the attempted rally.
It proved a key turn in the game for the Indians as they entered the top of the eighth against Matt Strahm, on for his second frame of relief. Rajai Davis drew a pinch-hit walk before Crisp struck out swinging. Kevin McCarthy came on to face pinch-hitter Abraham Almonte. Davis stole second before Almonte put the ball in play, but an error by Merrifield allowed him to reach and Davis to score the go-ahead run. Perez drew a walk, as did Santana to load the bases. Kipnis lined to second, but Lindor doubled to left, scoring both base runners to give Cleveland a 6-3 lead.
Andrew Miller put down the side in order in the eighth, getting a pair of strikeouts. Cody Allen took over for the ninth, striking out the first two batters before Dyson singled to right-center. Merrifield grounded to third to end the ball game, giving Allen his 31st save of the season.
The Indians (93-67) got a big win in their hunt for home field advantage against the Red Sox as Boston lost to the Toronto Blue Jays. The win moved the Indians ahead of the Red Sox in the standings by a half-game with one game remaining for sure. An Indians win on Sunday coupled with a Boston loss would create a scenario that could allow Cleveland to avoid making up last Thursday’s rain out against the Detroit Tigers, unless the Tigers close the gap in the AL Wild Card race. The Tigers (86-74) are now a game and a half out of the Wild Card picture, trailing the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto, who are both tied with 88-73 records.
The Royals (81-80) fell to 5-13 against the Indians this season. Kansas City has been outscored 89-57 in the 18 games thus far. Cleveland is the only team from the AL Central that KC could not figure out this season – they went 14-5 against Chicago, 12-7 against Detroit, and 15-4 against Minnesota.
BAUER NAMED GAME ONE STARTER
Bauer exited after six innings of work in his warm up for the postseason, finding out while angry in the dugout after allowing the Royals to tie the game that manager Terry Francona had tabbed him the starter for the series opener against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.
He allowed three runs on six hits on the afternoon, walking a pair and striking out nine in his tune up.
CONTROL HAUNTS VOLQUEZ AGAIN
Control had been the name of the game for Volquez against the Tribe this season, as he struggled with the free pass in giving the Indians plenty of extra chances. Saturday was no different as he walked four and gave up five hits in five innings of work, leading to the first three Cleveland runs.
The Royals bullpen tacked on four more walks over the final four innings.
STOLEN BASE KING
With no more than two games remaining on the regular season schedule, Davis should have the AL stolen base crown all to his own. He expanded his league lead with his 43rd stolen base of the season in the eighth. The AL’s next closest stealer, the Royals’ Dyson, picked off his 30th of the year earlier in the game.
NOT SEPTEMBER? NO PROBLEM FOR SANTANA
Santana had a double and a triple in five trips to the plate on Saturday and added two more walks to his already large total this season. He became the first Indians player in 80 years to have a double and triple in consecutive games, adding his day’s efforts to those of Friday, when he was 3-for-5 at the plate while coming up a homer short of the cycle.
He is now 5-for-8 in the series with the Royals and has pushed his season batting average to .261 and his on-base percentage to .367.
ONE MORE TIME
Josh Tomlin (12-9, 4.48 ERA) will be the Tribe’s starter on Sunday afternoon in the series finale between the Indians and Royals. He will make his fifth start against Kansas City this season and will go for his third win against them after posting a 2-0 record with a 2.42 ERA and 1.04 WHIP against KC this season. Right-hander Ian Kennedy (11-10, 3.69) will take the mound for the Royals, making his sixth start of the year against Cleveland. He is 2-3 with a 5.76 ERA and 1.38 WHIP against the Indians this season.
First pitch for the series and possibly the season’s final game is scheduled for 3:15 PM ET from Kauffman Stadium.
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images