Tribe Comes Back, Holds On for Series Win Over KC; Indians 5, Royals 4

Two big home runs helped the Indians overcome an early deficit and six strong innings from Zach Plesac earned Cleveland a series win over the Kansas City Royals in a 5-4 final on Sunday afternoon from Progressive Field.

The Indians (57-41) wrapped up their homestand at 7-3 and remained within three games of the first place Minnesota Twins, as the division leaders needed two runs in the ninth to walk-off with a 7-6 decision against the Oakland Athletics to salvage their series from Target Field. The Indians got a quality start from Plesac and held on despite two late runs allowed by the bullpen.

Cleveland fell behind by a run before stepping to the plate as Kansas City took advantage of some command issues by Plesac. After he retired the first two batters, Hunter Dozier fouled off three pitches before drawing a walk and Jorge Soler joined him on a five-pitch free pass. Cheslor Cuthbert put the first run on the board with a double to left, but Humberto Arteaga could not add on as he grounded to third. Plesac saw another threat in the second when Lucas Duda doubled with one out, but he was stranded by the nine and one hitters.

Lindor – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Royals starter Glenn Sparkman retired the side in order in the first before giving up a leadoff double to Jason Kipnis in the second. He moved to third on a groundout by Jose Ramirez, but Jake Bauers and Mike Freeman could not push the runner across as both grounded out.

The Royals added another run in the third as Soler continued his power display. With two outs, he drove a 1-2 four-seamer to right-center, extending the KC lead to 2-0.

An error aided the Indians in a big way in the bottom of the frame. Kevin Plawecki singled to short, but Arteaga’s errant throw to first allowed the Tribe catcher to reach safely. Tyler Naquin lined to left for the first out, but two pitches later, Francisco Lindor tied the game with his 16th homer of the season.

Plesac protected his new fortunes by retiring the side in order in the fourth and striking out all three batters in the fifth. His counterpart kept the score even as he worked around some jams in the middle innings. He stranded a pair in the fourth after a one-out double by Ramirez and a walk by Bauers, getting a pair of outs in the air to escape unharmed. In the fifth, Naquin led off with a single and Carlos Santana moved him to second with two outs on a base hit, but Kipnis fouled out to the catcher Cam Gallagher.

The Royals left a man in the sixth in Plesac’s final inning of work as Soler singled with one out, but Cuthbert was stranded after his fielder’s choice force at second and a groundout by Arteaga.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Tribe rallied for three runs to knock Sparkman out of the game. Ramirez fell behind 0-2 before driving a slider to right-center for his tenth homer of the year, putting the Indians up, 3-2. Bauers walked and moved to second on a sacrifice by Freeman before Plawecki knocked in a run with a single deep to left. Naquin flied out before Lindor put runners on the corners with a base hit to right. Oscar Mercado got into the hit column with a single to center, scoring Plawecki to make it 5-2. Tim Hill came on for Royals manager Ned Yost and got Santana to ground into a fielder’s choice on one pitch.

Nick Goody was the first man out of the Indians bullpen and set down the side before the stretch, but Adam Cimber was less efficient in the eighth. Three straight two-out singles from Dozier, Soler, and Cuthbert led to a run crossing safely, but Arteaga stranded two more on a groundout to first.

Jorge Lopez worked a quiet eighth in his second perfect inning of relief before Tribe manager Terry Francona summoned his closer, Brad Hand, to secure the save. Unfortunately, as has been the case more frequently of late, the path to victory was not as easy as it had once been as rookie Bubba Starling drove a 2-2 pitch over the 19-foot wall in left to cut the deficit to 5-4 on his first Major League home run. With the bottom of the order and Whit Merrifield lurking, Hand struck out Duda swinging on a slider off the plate for the first out and cut down Gallagher on a similar 2-2 offering. Merrifield got ahead of the count 2-0 before Hand hit the edges with a pair of strikes. Pitch five was a slider fouled off by the Royals All-Star, but Merrifield’s AL teammate got the last laugh by pumping a 95 MPH four-seamer past the second baseman to slam the door.

Plesac – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Plesac was gifted his fourth win of the season as the Indians took a 5-2 lead after his final batter faced. He allowed two runs on four hits in six innings, walking two and striking out six. The bullpen was a little shaky, giving up two runs late, but the three-run fifth gave the Indians just enough to hold on to a victory.

Hand’s save was his 27th of the season in 28 chances.

Sparkman was heading towards a quality start before things unraveled for him in the sixth. He was unable to finish the frame, working five and two-thirds innings while giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits with two walks and just one strikeout. The loss dropped him to 3-6 on the season.

Lindor had two hits and drove in a pair of runs on a home run that nearly dropped him to his back knee. But after the game, he was more focused on his sixth inning at bat, one that led to a foul ball that screamed into first base seats unprotected by netting and struck a three-year-old boy, sending him to the hospital.

“It stinks, man,” Lindor said about the situation. “You don’t want to get nobody hurt. I have heard the kid is doing well. He’s in the hospital. He’s getting checked and all I know is he’s in stable condition and he’s doing good.

“In a way, that makes me happy, but it stinks, you don’t want that to happen to anybody, especially a little kid.”

Lindor’s postgame comments mirrored sentiments around the game calling for extended netting to protect fans down the base lines to be installed at all parks. The Indians did not issue a comment about the lack of netting after the game, nor was the organization able to share any information about the child struck.

Ramirez went 2-for-4 as he has continued to show signs of being himself once again.

Soler went 3-for-3 and drew a walk to lead the Royals. His homer run was his 27th of the year, third-most in the AL behind Mike Trout and Edwin Encarnacion. He also robbed Kipnis of a home run with a leaping grab at the right field wall in the fourth. Cuthbert was 2-for-4 behind him with two runs batted in. It was an uncharacteristically bad day at the plate for the AL hit leader Merrifield, who went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

The Indians will get back to work on Monday after a short flight to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays over the next three days. Mike Clevinger (3-2, 3.57 ERA) will get the start in the opener, to be followed by Trevor Bauer and Shane Bieber in the latter two games of the series before the club heads to Kansas City to rematch the same Royals for four games.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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