Adalberto Mondesi had himself a day all over the field for the Royals on Thursday and he capped it by scoring the winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning to give Kansas City a 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians from Kauffman Stadium.
Mondesi, son of former big leaguer Raul Mondesi who previously played under the same name as his big league pops, started the Royals scoring with his 13th homer of the year, prevented a run in the eighth with a defensive gem, and then capped his day by walking, stealing two bases, and scoring in the tenth on Salvador Perez’s walk-off single against Neil Ramirez.
Kansas City’s win was a big one, as it will prevent the club from matching the worst single season in 50 years of Royals baseball. They moved to 57-102 on the season and at worst will fall short of the franchise worst mark of 106 losses in 2005, the middle of three consecutive 100-loss seasons for the Royals.
The Indians got the night started in good fashion in the first, as Francisco Lindor singled, moved to second on an error on a pickoff attempt, and took third on a balk by Royals starter Glenn Sparkman. After a strikeout by Greg Allen, Jose Ramirez swung away at a 3-0 pitch and hit a fly to left deep enough to score Lindor to make it a 1-0 lead three batters into the game.
Whit Merrifield extended his hitting streak to 17 straight with a leadoff single in the home half of the first and stole his 42nd base of the season, but was stranded as Josh Tomlin worked out of the jam. After the Indians left runners on the corners with one out in the second after a double from Yandy Diaz and a single by Brandon Guyer, Tomlin worked around a one-out single by Hunter Dozier.
Tomlin was nearly through a long third inning after a nine-pitch battle with Brett Phillips that ended with a strikeout and a six-pitch encounter with Merrifield that led to a grounder to first. Mondesi got ahead in the count 2-0 and swung at a cutter, sending it over the wall in right to tie the game at one.
Sparkman allowed just one more runner in the fourth and fifth to conclude his outing. Tomlin left after four and two-thirds in a bit of trouble after a leadoff ground rule double from Brian Goodwin and a hit by pitch of Cam Gallagher, but he got the next two batters and Andrew Miller got Mondesi to line out.
The Indians threatened briefly in the sixth against their former unsigned draft pick Ben Lively. Josh Donaldson singled and moved to second on a single by Melky Cabrera. A fly to right by Diaz put runners on the corners, but Yan Gomes could not drive the runner in as he popped out to short.
After a scoreless inning of work from Miller, Dan Otero took the mound for the seventh and gave up a pair of hits, but he kept the Royals off of the board. Gallagher singled, but his pinch-runner was forced on a fielder’s choice. Merrifield reached on an infield single, but Mondesi struck out for the second time to leave a pair.
The Indians missed a big chance in the eighth against Kevin McCarthy. After the first two men were retired, Donaldson reached on an infield single and was lifted for Rajai Davis. Cabrera blasted a double to left, moving Davis to third, but Diaz grounded to short, where Mondesi made a nice play with the glove and fired across his body to nab a head first sliding Diaz at first to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring. Wily Peralta set them down in order in the ninth.
Jon Edwards handled all four that he faced in the eighth and ninth, with Tyler Olson slamming the door on Goodwin and Meibrys Viloria with back-to-back swinging strikeouts to send the game to extras, tied at one.
The Indians left key runners in scoring position in the tenth against Jason Hammel, which proved to be a big difference in the outcome. Allen singled with one out and stole second. Ramirez joined him via walk and the duo picked off the next bases after a fly out by Davis. With a chance to drive in the go-ahead run, Brandon Barnes struck out swinging.
N. Ramirez came on for the tenth and got the first two batters before Mondesi won an eight-pitch at bat with a walk. The young speedster picked off second and then third following an Alex Gordon walk. The heart of the Royals, All-Star catcher Perez, slapped a first pitch slider into left to kick off a celebration at Kauffman.
The Indians dropped to 89-70 on the season and are now 40-38 on the road this year.
Tomlin’s four and two-thirds innings could very well be his final appearance in an Indians uniform after a rough season. He allowed a run on four hits, issuing no walks while striking out five. He moved back into a tie for the team lead in homers allowed on the season in his 74-pitch outing. Miller had another encouraging appearance in relief as he tunes up for the postseason, allowing a hit while getting four outs. He threw just three balls in 19 total pitches.
Sparkman worked a career-high five innings, allowing a run on five hits with two strikeouts for the Royals. The bullpen combined for five scoreless innings of relief behind him, with Hammel earning his fourth win of the season (against 14 losses) with a lucky effort in the top of the tenth.
Cleveland was just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left ten men on base on the night, wasting three stolen bases from the legs of Allen (who stole his 20th and 21st) and Ramirez (who swiped his 34th). Donaldson went 3-for-4 with three singles while in the lineup as the designated hitter.
The Indians and Royals will match up again on Friday night for game two of the four-game set. Right-hander Mike Clevinger (12-8, 3.07 ERA) will face off with veteran Ian Kennedy (3-8, 4.59). Clevinger needs to last six and two-thirds innings to reach the 200-inning mark this season. Kennedy has been sharp since returning from his second stay on the disabled list, posting a 2-0 record, a 1.89 ERA, and a 1.16 WHIP in three quality starts this month.
Game time is scheduled for an 8:15 PM ET first pitch.
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