Six early runs and a quality start from Mike Clevinger paced the Cleveland Indians to a 9-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
The Indians offense finally awoke with a big night at the plate, but Cleveland did not need the outburst as Clevinger flew through six easy innings on the mound to earn his eleventh win of the season while simultaneously ending the Indians’ three-game losing skid and the Royals’ six-game winning streak.
Danny Duffy had the starting nod for the Royals in an unfavorable matchup against the Indians, but he would not make it out of the first inning before departing with a left shoulder injury that is expected to cost him the rest of the season. After Clevinger set down the side in order in the first, Francisco Lindor gave him a lead to work with as he led off the Tribe’s at bats for the night with a solo shot to left. Yandy Diaz singled and Jose Ramirez walked and, after a fly out to left by Edwin Encarnacion, Brandon Guyer loaded the bases with a single to left. Melky Cabrera made it a 2-0 game with a fielder’s choice force at second, and the lead grew to three with a single to right by Jason Kipnis. Duffy left with Roberto Perez at the plate, and he was retiring on strikes by reliever Burch Smith.
Clevinger faced some trouble in the second inning. Hunter Dozier doubled and Ryan O’Hearn walked, but the Tribe’s right-hander fired eleven of the next 13 pitches over the plate for strikes on the way to three straight swinging strikeouts.
The Indians tagged Smith for three runs in the second to break the game open. Lindor was hit by a pitch with one out and Diaz joined him on base with a free pass. Ramirez sent a drive deep to right, where Brett Phillips slammed into the wall, giving Ramirez a double and an RBI to make it 4-0 and Encarnacion lofted a fly to deep center to push the lead to five runs. Guyer singled for the second straight at bat, pushing home Ramirez from third to give the Indians their second straight three-spot.
Clevinger made it six strikeouts through the first three perfect innings, starting and ending the third with strikeouts looking. The no-hitter and shutout came to an end in the fourth, as Alex Gordon cleared the wall in center with his 11th homer of the season to make it a 6-1 game.
The Indians responded in the home half of the inning with an unearned run off of reliever Jake Newberry. Ramirez reached safely on a throwing error on Dozier. After Newberry retired the next two, Cabrera singled to keep the frame alive and Kipnis singled to the right side to plate Ramirez as the Indians scored for a third different inning on the night.
Diaz accomplished something that he had never done as a Major Leaguer in the bottom of the fifth against Newberry, as he drove a 1-0 slider to center and gone for his first big league home run to make it an 8-1 game.
Clevinger left after six and the Royals capitalized with a run in the seventh. Oliver Perez retired the first batter that he faced before hitting Brian Goodwin with a pitch. Adam Cimber came on from the bullpen, but he struggled to contain the Royals. A passed ball moved Goodwin into scoring position and Alcides Escobar singled to center to put runners on the corners. Emilio Bonifacio grounded to third, where Ramirez made the turn to second to force Escobar, but Erik Gonzalez’s return throw to first was wild, allowing Goodwin to score. Cam Gallagher grounded out to stop any further scoring.
Diaz came through again with his second RBI of the game in the bottom of the seventh off of Brandon Maurer. Rajai Davis was hit by a pitch and he came in to score with ease on a triple to right by Diaz to make it 9-2. The Royals followed a similar recipe in the next half inning, as Brad Hand entered and plunked Adalberto Mondesi with one out and allowed an RBI-double by Dozier to make it a 9-3 game.
Cody Allen pitched the ninth in a non-save situation and needed 19 pitches to wrap up the inning, walking Goodwin to start the inning before a foul out by Escobar and back-to-back strikeouts looking by Bonifacio and Gallagher.
The Indians moved to 78-60 on the season behind the quality start from Clevinger. He allowed three hits and a walk over six innings, giving up just the one run on the Gordon home run. He struck out ten Royals batters on the night.
Kansas City fell to 46-92 on the season. Duffy took the loss after allowing three runs on four hits and a walk in just two-thirds of an inning of work. Three of the five relievers behind him allowed at least a run.
Diaz, hitting in the two-hole for the Indians with Michael Brantley getting a night off against the left-hander Duffy, went 3-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored. He came just a double short of the cycle after hitting his first career homer and his second triple of the season. Guyer, Cabrera, and Kipnis each had two hits while driving in runs.
Phillips left the game in the third inning after colliding violently with the wall in right field in the second. The team was already without catcher Salvador Perez, who missed his sixth straight game with a sprained left thumb.
Prior to the game, the Indians made a slew of roster moves. The contracts of outfielder Brandon Barnes and utility man Adam Rosales were purchased from Triple-A Columbus. To make room on the 40-man roster for the pair, the club placed two on the 60-day disabled list – reliever James Hoyt (who was recalled and placed on the DL with right knee inflammation) and outfielder Tyler Naquin (out since July 26 after right hip surgery).
The Indians will look to take the series in the rubber match on Wednesday afternoon from Progressive Field. Corey Kluber (17-7, 2.80 ERA) will go for his MLB-leading 18th win against right-hander Brad Keller (7-5, 3.26), a Rule 5 pick who pitched well in his last start against the Indians.
Game time is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images