Mike Clevinger pitched into the eighth inning in a quality start and big performances from Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley at the top of the Cleveland batting order led the Indians to a 6-2 win over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday afternoon.
On Lindor’s t-shirt day at Progressive Field, he gave the 10,000 fans to receive the giveaways and the other 14,500+ in attendance a memorable performance as he supported a strong starting effort from Clevinger and got a little help from Brantley in the two-hole in a much needed win for the Tribe.
Clevinger had to deal with some early traffic in the first, beginning with a nine-pitch at bat to start the game against Jon Jay. He would single and move to third on a double by Jorge Soler. Clevinger got a big strikeout of Mike Moustakas for the first out, but Salvador Perez’s groundout to second pushed across Jay with the game’s first run. Lucas Duda stranded Soler at third with a liner to center that was reeled in on a sliding catch by Greg Allen to end the inning.
It would be the Tribe’s 1-2 punch at the top of the order that would come through big all day long and they got going from the start. Lindor opened the day with a double to the left field corner off of Royals starter Jakob Junis and he scored easily on a single to right by Brantley to tie the game at one.
After a quiet second for Clevinger and Junis, both offenses got back to work as the lineups flipped over for a second trip through. With one out in the third, back-to-back doubles from Jay and Soler pushed across another run, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. A lineout from Moustakas turned into a double play as Clevinger was able to escape with no further harm.
It would take just two batters for the Tribe to match the Royals run. Junis struck out nine hitter Brandon Guyer to start the home half of the third, but the red hot Lindor jumped on a sinker from Junis and sent a liner just over the wall in the right field corner with the game-tying shot, his eleventh of the season.
Junis retired eight straight Indians hitters after the home run, striking out the side in order in the fifth. Clevinger gave up a one-out single in the fourth and a leadoff single in the sixth, but neither runner was able to advance past second base.
It was in the bottom of the sixth that the tides turned for the Tribe. Lindor led things off with his third straight extra base hit in as many at bats on the afternoon with a double to left-center. A double to right from Brantley pushed Lindor across for the third time to give the Indians a 3-2 lead. Brantley moved up to third on a fly out by Jose Ramirez for the first out and a swinging strikeout by Edwin Encarnacion had the inning in jeopardy, but Yonder Alonso came through with a big two-out single to right to plate another run. The Indians would load the bases on a walk by Jason Kipnis and an intentional pass to Yan Gomes before Allen grounded into a force at second against reliever Kevin McCarthy to squander a big inning.
The Indians would add on two more in the next inning against McCarthy and it was once again the usual suspects at work. Lindor recorded his fourth extra base hit of the game with a one-out solo homer off of the Royals right-hander, his team-leading 12th of the year, to make it a 5-2 game. Brantley singled to left and after a pop out by Ramirez, he scored on a single to center by Encarnacion to make it a four-run edge for the Tribe.
Clevinger came back out in the eighth, having retired six in a row, and got Abraham Almonte to ground to second before a single by Jay. His day would end on a swinging strikeout of Soler and new dad Tyler Olson came on to get Moustakas to fly to right. Cody Allen took care of the ninth, striking out a pair to end it.
Clevinger (3-0) took the win for the Tribe with seven and two-thirds innings of work on the mound. It was his first home win of the year and pushed the Indians back to the .500 mark at 19-19. Junis (4-3) lost his third decision of the season, hurt by the top of the Tribe’s order. The Royals fell to 13-26 with the loss.
MORE ON CLEVINGER
Clevinger was able to work around some of the problems that he ran into on the afternoon, as he allowed eight hits on the game, but he did something that he has not done this year by failing to walk a batter. He followed his recipe to success – he got ahead early and often, throwing first pitch strikes to 20 of 29 batters, and he was effective in the zone, throwing 81 of 115 pitches for strikes. It was another encouraging start from the 27-year-old right-hander, who looks like he has no intention of leaving the rotation any time soon.
JUNIS KNOCKED OUT
Junis, the 25-year-old second-year right-hander, was making his second career start at Progressive Field and his third appearance overall against the Indians in his brief career. He was able to minimize the damage in the early going, keeping the rest of the lineup in check behind Lindor and Brantley, but the third trip through the lineup would lead to the knockout punch. He left with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth and was charged with four runs on six hits with a pair of walks and seven strikeouts.
The move of Brantley into the second spot in the lineup seems to be paying off, as the top of the order has been scorching hot through the first two games of the series between the two clubs. The veteran left fielder’s 3-for-4 day at the plate with two singles, a double, two runs scored, and two RBI (tying him with Lindor for the team lead with 24) was overshadowed by an even bigger effort by the Tribe’s leadoff man.
Lindor put up a perfect 4-for-4 day at the plate and tallied 12 total bases, using a pair of doubles and two home runs to score four times and drive in two. It extended his hitting streak to a career-high-tying 13 straight games (.458 average in his streak with eight homers and 14 RBI) and gave him seven straight plate appearances reaching base. The four runs scored were a career-high.
“I think it’s a lot of elements,” said manager Terry Francona of Lindor’s success. “He’s a really good hitter. When you spray the ball around from foul pole to foul pole, you’re going to get hits other guys don’t.”
He has been on an absolute power surge of late, hitting eight home runs over his last ten games. His four extra base hits in one game marked just the fourth such game by an Indians player during the Jacobs/Progressive Field era (Kelly Shoppach had five in 2008, and both Ellis Burks in 2001 and Jody Gerut in 2004 had four).
Lindor also became the first leadoff hitter for the Indians to record four extra base hits in the same game since July 3, 1964, when Tito Francona had three doubles and a triple in a 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Tyler Naquin is going to have to wait a little while to add to his eight-game hitting streak, as the outfielder was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Saturday afternoon with a left hamstring strain. He suffered the injury during the Indians’ six-run fourth inning running out his two-run double that gave the Tribe a 5-4 lead at the time.
In a corresponding roster move, the left-handed reliever Olson was activated from the paternity list after missing Friday’s game for the birth of his son.
The start of the game was delayed by one hour and 15 minutes by rains in the Cleveland area.
The series will be on the line on Mother’s Day Sunday as the Royals and Indians will meet for a 1:10 PM ET first pitch.
Familiar face Danny Duffy (1-4, 5.15 ERA) will get the start for the Royals. He has had a tough go this season, but looked better in his last start, allowing just one run in five and one-third innings against Baltimore. He has had little luck with the Indians throughout his career, posting a 2-7 record lifetime with a 4.09 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP in 16 games.
Corey Kluber (5-2, 2.62) will counter for the Tribe. He took the loss his last time out against Milwaukee as he allowed three runs in six innings on a pair of home runs. The ten homers that he has allowed on the year have accounted for 14 of the 17 runs that he has given up. He owns a 9-6 record against the Royals in his career in 20 appearances.
For those interested, here is a re-post of Friday’s Tribe Trivia, as it was initially omitted from the game recap that night. – BT
In 1988, the Indians and Royals completed a rare swap for the two franchises. The Indians acquired left-handed pitcher Bud Black from the Royals and sent this 30-year-old first baseman/left fielder/DH to Kansas City in return. He was coming off of his first and only All-Star appearance in 1987. He previously played in the Yankees organization and made his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs prior to coming to Cleveland and after his time with the Royals, he played for the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays.
Who am I? – Pat Tabler
This speedy outfielder with a fun name joined the Indians in 2002 from the St. Louis Cardinals. He was part of a seven-player trade with Boston three and a half years later and moved on to Kansas City in a 2008 trade. He would later return to Cleveland and helped the team make the playoffs in the last season of his 15-year career.
Who am I? – Coco Crisp
This long-time Royals catcher spent the final days of the 1984 season with the Indians. He made his way into just one game for Cleveland and delivered in improbable fashion, hitting a two-out, pinch-hit, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Indians a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins. It would be the only at bat of his Indians career, giving him a perfect 1.000/1.000/4.000 slash for his Tribe career. He returned to Kansas City following the season.
Who am I? – Jamie Quirk
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images