Mike Clevinger capitalized on an opportunity to help out the Indians on Sunday, firing five and two-thirds innings of scoreless baseball and the Cleveland bullpen did the rest to pick up a sluggish offense in a combined 1-0 one-hit victory.
The Indians came away with a series win to even up their record during their current road trip at 3-3 and to improve their season record to 17-13. They sit atop the American League Central alone at the 30-game mark and now lead the last place Royals (10-20) by seven games.
The two teams wore throwback jerseys honoring Negro League teams from their respective cities, with the Royals representing the Monarchs and the Indians representing the Buckeyes. The uniforms worn in the game were scheduled to be auctioned off to help raise funds for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a privately funded non-profit museum in Kansas City “dedicated to preserving the rich history of African-American Baseball”.
Clevinger was recalled on Sunday to make a spot start for the injured Corey Kluber and continued his strong start to the 2017 season with five and two-thirds innings of shutout one-hit baseball. The Cleveland bullpen did its job to near perfection, completing the final three and one-third innings without allowing a run or a hit while walking a pair.
It was a well-pitched ball game on both sides, as left-hander Danny Duffy took the ball for the Royals, who were playing in their first rubber match game of the season. He pitched with runners on base for much of his start, but he kept the Indians from crossing home plate through the first four innings. He stranded Carlos Santana at third in the first after a leadoff double from the first baseman and a sacrifice from Francisco Lindor. A one-out single from Brandon Guyer was wasted in the second and Santana was stranded at second in the third after his leadoff single before Duffy’s first 1-2-3 inning of the day in the fourth.
Clevinger showed little rust in his return to the Indians rotation. He struck out a pair to end the first, pitched around Eric Hosmer in the second before retiring the side in order, and negated a leadoff walk by Alex Gordon in the third with three more set down in order.
He battled in the fourth in his lone tough inning. He walked Hosmer for a second time with one out in the home half before Salvador Perez doubled to left, moving Hosmer to third. But with a pair in scoring position and only one out, Clevinger pitched through some lengthy at bats to strike out Jorge Soler looking and Jorge Bonifacio swinging to get out of trouble.
The Indians picked up a run of support the next half inning for Clevinger after his high-wire act. Yan Gomes doubled to the wall in left-center and moved to third on a sacrifice from Abraham Almonte. Santana lined a single back up the middle just past Duffy into center field to drive home Gomes before Lindor grounded into a double play on a comebacker to the Royals starter.
Staked to a 1-0 lead, Clevinger walked Alcides Escobar with one down in the fifth before erasing him on a nice double play line out to Lindor. He left in the bottom of the sixth after retiring Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain on balls in the air and turned things over to the bullpen. Boone Logan walked Hosmer, the only man he would face, before Bryan Shaw entered and struck out the next four batters in order. Andrew Miller needed just nine pitches to clear the eighth, striking out Whit Merrifield on three pitches for the second out.
The Indians had a chance to pad their lead in the seventh, but Guyer ran himself into an out after his one-out double. A grounder off of the bat of Gomes went to Escobar at short, who caught Guyer in no man’s land and erased him after a rundown. Almonte would walk with two outs, but reliever Mike Minor got Santana to ground out. Edwin Encarnacion singled off of Minor in the eighth with two outs, but Jose Ramirez struck out swinging on three pitches to end that frame.
In the bottom of the ninth, it was Cody Allen time and once again, it came with a little bit of dramatics. Cain was plunked on the arm by a pitch to start the inning. Hosmer flew to left and Perez struck out swinging for the second out before Cain stole second and Soler walked. With the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on at first, Royals manager Ned Yost called upon Brandon Moss, the former Indian, to hit for Bonifacio. Moss got under one and lifted a fly to right-center that was reeled in by Almonte to end it.
Clevinger earned the win in his first start of the season. Duffy took his third loss of the year in start number seven, while Allen earned his ninth save in as many chances.
CLEVINGER’S MISLEADING LINE
Clevinger was crisp on the mound in retiring 17 Royals on the afternoon. He threw 50 of 91 pitches for strikes, striking out five and walking four, but two of the walks were to Hosmer, who got a steady diet of pitches outside of the zone from Cleveland pitching in the contest after starting the first two games of the series 4-for-8 with three RBI.
SWING AND MISS STUFF FROM SHAW
Shaw worked an inning and a third in relief and struck out all four batters that he faced, throwing 14 of 21 pitches for strikes. In earning his sixth hold of the season, nine of his 14 strikes were swung on and missed, more than any of the eight pitchers to appear on the afternoon between the two clubs.
SANTANA KO’S KC
Santana entered Sunday’s game with a lifetime .327 average at Kauffman Stadium with 16 doubles, three triples, 15 homers, and 52 RBI. With the exception of the batting average, all are the top marks for Santana in his career in ball parks outside of Progressive Field.
Against Duffy, he was 9-for-22 (.409) and expanded on those numbers nicely with a 3-for-3 day against him with two singles, a double, and what would prove to be the game-winning RBI in the fifth.
BRANTLEY BANGED UP
Brantley left in the fourth inning with what was described as a right ankle sprain and is listed as “day-to-day”. With a series on turf coming up at the Rogers Centre, Brantley could be held out of action for the next couple of days to let him rest up.
Right-handed reliever Joe Colon was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Sunday to make room on the roster for Clevinger. He was recalled when Kluber was placed on the disabled list last Wednesday. The 27-year-old did not make an appearance while back on the Indians roster.
WHERE’S THE OFFENSE?
The two struggling offenses combined to score just nine runs between them in the three-game weekend set. Each team claimed 3-1 victories before the Indians used the solo run on Sunday to take the series.
“We’re not hitting on all cylinders,” said Terry Francona in his postgame press conference. “But it’s a heck of a lot better to win 1-0 instead of losing 1-0.”
DUFFY DEALT TOUGH LOSS
While the end result for the Royals was a disappointing defeat, they will likely walk away from the outing feeling much better about Duffy, who bounced back after two rocky outings his last times out.
He worked six and two-thirds innings of one-run baseball on Sunday, allowing a run on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. After giving up just four runs in his first four starts to the season (a span of 27 1/3 innings), he was shelled for six runs in each of his last two starts to nearly triple his season ERA from 1.32 to 3.89.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The Indians depart Kansas City with the series win and a 3-3 record on their abbreviated ten-game road trip and will head north to Toronto for an ALCS rematch against a notably different Blue Jays club.
Trevor Bauer (2-3, 7.67 ERA) is expected to start the opener of the series for Cleveland. First pitch on Monday is scheduled for 7:07 PM ET.
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