Rookie Zach Plesac allowed just one unearned run over seven innings of work and Jose Ramirez went deep for the second game in a row as the Cleveland Indians rolled to an 8-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Friday.
The Indians got to Jakob Junis, one start after he limited Cleveland to just two hits over six scoreless innings. The Tribe took a two-run lead in the third and piled on six runs over the final four innings to claim a second straight victory over the Royals while guaranteeing a winning road trip through Toronto and Kansas City.
Junis shut down the Indians offense in the first two innings with double play balls. Francisco Lindor singled to start the game and Mike Freeman drew a one-out walk before Jason Kipnis grounded into a twin killing. Ramirez singled to kick off the second, but the Royals turned two on a grounder to second by Jake Bauers.
Plesac retired the first five batters of the game before Bubba Starling singled in the second. Lucas Duda singled to left-center but Starling was gunned down trying to score all the way from first to keep the game scoreless.
Junis got the first out of the third before Tyler Naquin singled to right. Lindor slashed the second pitch of his at bat down the right field line for an RBI-triple, putting the Indians up 1-0. Oscar Mercado popped to second for the second out before Freeman came through with a single to right to plate Lindor to extend the lead to 2-0.
Plesac had to work out of a jam in the bottom of the inning. Cam Gallagher singled with one out and Whit Merrifield joined him on the bases via walk, but Plesac got Alex Gordon to fly to left before Hunter Dozier popped to second. Two more reached in the fourth when Jorge Soler led off the inning with a walk and Duda was hit by a pitch with two outs, but Humberto Arteaga flied to right to strand a pair.
The Royals got their third double play of five innings to hold down the Indians in the top of the fifth, then struck through for a run in the bottom of the frame. A throwing error by Freeman with one out allowed Merrifield to reach base safely. Gordon moved Merrifield to third on a single to right and Dozier drove in a run with a single to center to cut the deficit to 2-1. With two on and only one out, Plesac got out of the mess by striking out Soler swinging before getting Cheslor Cuthbert to ground to first.
Cleveland responded to Kansas City’s run with three more of its own with another big swing from Ramirez. Mercado jumped on Junis’s second offering and singled to left. After a lineout by Freeman to center, Kipnis was hit by a pitch to put two on. The DH Ramirez took a first pitch ball before finding a slider low in the zone, driving it 428 feet to right to put the Tribe up big, 5-1.
Plesac made the play of the night to start the home half of the sixth. His second pitch to Starling was popped up in foul territory. The starter broke for the ball and got to it before the first baseman Bauers could and made a full sprint diving catch for out one. Plesac retired the next two.
Junis left after giving up back-to-back singles to Naquin and Lindor to put runners on the corners to start the seventh. Jorge Lopez came in and immediately ran into the same problem as the night before as he walked Mercado (after a stolen base by Lindor) on four straight pitches. Freeman lofted the next pitch to right-center for a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1. Kipnis walked to load the bases before Ramirez lined into a double play, with Lindor being gunned down at home.
Plesac got through the seventh with a double play ball after a leadoff single from Gallagher to finish his outing. His teammates added on with another run in the eighth with a pair of doubles from Bauers and Naquin off of Lopez.
Adam Cimber pitched a perfect eighth before the Indians added one final run in the ninth. Freeman reached on a one-out error and Ramirez walked with two outs. Bauers singled home Freeman to give Cleveland an 8-1 edge.
Cimber pitched the ninth in garbage time. Three straight singles by Starling, Duda, and Arteaga got the Royals another run. After Gallagher flied out, Merrifield grounded into a fielder’s choice to score a second run. Gordon lined out to end any hopes of a Royals rally.
The Indians moved to a season-high 19 games over the .500 mark with their third straight victory while clinching at least a split of the four-game set from Kauffman Stadium. The Royals fell to 39-66.
Plesac was impressive once again as he moved to 5-3 on the season. He worked seven quality innings, allowing just one unearned run on six hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts. Cimber gave up two runs on three hits in two innings of work.
Plesac and his skipper Terry Francona both had things to say about his diving catch in the sixth.
“That play he made, that was athletic,” said Francona. “That was a great play.”
“I took a peek and JB [Bauers] was not there,” said Plesac about how the play transpired. “I realized that I was going to be the one closest to the ball. I just had to make a play. I knew my feet were still on the grass, so I had room to dive if I had to.”
Junis did not have nearly the luck in his second straight start against the Tribe. He allowed six runs on ten hits over six innings with two walks and five strikeouts in his fourth start in the last month against the Indians. Lopez walked three and gave up three hits in three innings of work, charged with two runs (one earned).
Lindor and Naquin each had three hits for Cleveland. Lindor scored once and drove one in. Naquin touched home twice while scoring once. Ramirez continued his hot and clutch hitting with a two-hit night, including his 12th home run of the season. Bauers added two more hits out of the six-hole.
Game three of four from Missouri is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET first pitch on Saturday night. Right-hander Glenn Sparkman (3-6, 4.67 ERA) and Mike Clevinger (4-2, 3.61) will square up in the evening start.
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images