The Kansas City Royals scored five times in the final three innings, overcoming an early 5-3 deficit, and held off a late rally attempt by the Indians in an 8-6 victory from Cleveland on Tuesday night.
The long ball was the story of the early scoring on the night for both clubs, but some extra opportunities provided by the Tribe defense and relief corps allowed the Royals to climb back into the game and steal away a victory from the host Clevelanders in ugly fashion in a contest that could have easily had different results for the Indians.
Newest bullpen arm Cal Quantrill became the third Indians pitcher of the night when he took the mound to open the seventh inning for interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr., looking to protect a 5-3 lead that had held since the bottom of the third. The inning got off on the wrong foot for Quantrill, however, as Alex Gordon grounded his 2-2 offering towards second on the heavily shifted infield. Francisco Lindor, ranging well to his left, fielded cleanly on the run and tossed to Carlos Santana, but the first baseman juggled the ball long enough for Gordon to reach safely. He was forced at second on a fielder’s choice back to the mound, but Quantrill’s throw to the bag was high, forcing Lindor to get the out at second and nothing more on what could have been a double play possibility. Edward Olivares singled to right-center to put runners on the corners and Nicky Lopez made it a one-run game on a slow roller to short. Lindor was able to cut down Olivares at second, but the return throw from Cesar Hernandez to Santana was not in time to get Lopez. Cam Gallagher followed with a double to left that scored Lopez all the way from first with the tying run. Whit Merrifield left the potential go-ahead run at second with a pop up into shallow left, where Lindor made the catch.
Adalberto Mondesi singled against the shift past Mike Freeman at third and stole second. A single to left by Hunter Dozier moved the runner over to third and Maikel Franco got another run batted in against the Tribe with a sacrifice fly to center, putting the Royals up, 6-5. Gordon kept the inning rolling with a single to right to put runners back at the corners, bringing Alomar Jr. out of the dugout in search of relief. He called on the ageless Oliver Perez, who walked the pinch-hitter Ryan McBroom to load the bases. Perez struck out Olivares on three pitches, but his first pitch to Lopez caught him on his right elbow guard to force in the second run of the inning in the 7-5 contest. Adam Plutko, the third reliever of the inning, struck out Gallagher swinging to leave the bags full.
Holland set down the Tribe quickly in the bottom of the eighth, needing just eleven pitches to close out his second of two strong innings of relief, before the Royals tacked on one more run for good measure against Plutko. Merrifield doubled off of the wall in left and was sacrificed to third by Mondesi. Dozier popped to short for the second out, but Franco extended his hitting streak to six with his second RBI of the game, singling back up the middle to make it an 8-5 score. Gordon popped to second to end the frame.
Right-hander Scott Barlow entered for the ninth, looking for his second save of the season. He struck out Franmil Reyes on a slider off of the plate for the first out, but Tyler Naquin singled to right. A second straight single from Josh Naylor put runners on the corners to bring the tying run to the plate in Sandy Leon. Looking for his third hit of the night, he knocked a run in with a grounder past a diving Dozier at first, backed up by Lopez who got the Tribe’s backstop for the second out. Delino DeShields was overmatched by Barlow, who fired a 1-0 fastball by him before getting him on two pitches out of the zone.
The Indians dropped to 26-16 with the loss, bringing an end to the team’s three-game winning streak. The Royals stopped their losing skid at seven straight, winning for the first time in September to move to 15-28.
The game’s conclusion was a stark contrast to how the night started for both clubs. The Indians used two big flies to take an early lead against Jakob Junis, then needed another after a blast from the Royals off of Triston McKenzie tied the game.
After a perfect top of the first from McKenzie, Freeman got the offense started in a rare start, doubling with one out in the inning while in the lineup for an injured Jose Ramirez. Lindor moved the runner over to third on a grounder to first and Santana shot the next pitch into orbit. His fifth homer of the season gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
McKenzie retired the side again in the second before the Indians added another run. Junis retired Naquin on a fly to left and Naylor on a grounder to second, but Leon found a first-pitch four-seamer to his liking, sending a shot to right-center for a solo homer, making it a 3-0 game.
Some bad luck got McKenzie in the top of the third as the Royals tied the game. Olivares struck out swinging for the first out before Lopez lofted a fly to shallow center. DeShields took several steps back before breaking in on the ball and slipping. By the time that he got the ball in, Lopez was swim sliding into second just around the tag of Lindor. Gallagher drew a walk to put two on for Merrifield, who made his 2-for-35 spell at the plate a distant memory by parking his eighth home run of the season onto the Home Run Porch to tie the game at three. McKenzie showed some moxie after Merrifield’s big swing, throwing six of the next seven pitches for strikes in setting down Mondesi looking and Dozier swinging.
The tie game did not last long. Hernandez got himself into the hit column with a leadoff single in the home half of the third. Freeman struck out swinging, but Lindor yanked another four-seamer over the right field wall with his seventh long ball of the season, moving the Indians back in front, 5-3.
Despite a rapidly building pitch count, McKenzie worked his way through five for the Tribe. He allowed a one-out single to Gordon in the fourth, but stranded him there. He got the side in order in the fifth, leaving with 92 pitches tossed on the night.
Junis saw four batters in the fourth, as Leon reached on a single before he was forced out at second for the final out of the inning on a fielder’s choice by DeShields. He lasted two batters into the home half of the fifth before he got the hook as Freeman took him deep to left for a two-base hit with one out. Kyle Zimmer took over on the mound and promptly picked off Freeman. Lindor walked but Zimmer struck out Santana swinging.
James Karinchak found his form on the mound in the sixth, needing just nine pitches to retire the side, using a pair of swinging strikeouts to open his quick stint of work. Zimmer matched his effort in the bottom of the inning, striking out Reyes and Naquin swinging before Naylor grounded back to the mound to end his solid effort out of the bullpen, beginning what proved to be a strong showing as a whole by the Kansas City relief staff on the night.
McKenzie gutted his way through five innings for the Tribe in a no-decision while making a career-high 92 pitches. He allowed three runs on three hits, walking one and striking out seven.
“He was okay. He threw a lot of pitches. We gave the Royals extra outs. It was hard for him to recover,” said Alomar Jr. “It doesn’t show as an error on the stat sheet, but there was a misplayed ball in center field. Delino didn’t see it. Then the guy was very elusive, he could have been out twice. But that happens. Merrifield came up to the plate, otherwise he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to come and hit, and hit a home run.”
The bullpen behind McKenzie allowed four runs (two earned) over the final four innings with five hits and a walk allowed. The Indians were without relievers Brad Hand and Phil Maton due to recent heavy workload.
“We were two guys down today. If McKenzie would have gone six, it would have helped us out,” said Alomar Jr. “But he could only go five, so we had to piece the bullpen, those four innings. It’s very difficult when you have two guys down. They did okay, I’m not going to be complaining on what they did. We just gave them too many opportunities. We can’t give extra outs in order to beat a Major League team. We gave them chances, put it that way.”
Junis lasted two batters into the fifth before turning the game over to the bullpen. He was charged with five runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. He made 68 pitches, 47 for strikes. Zimmer and Holland were stellar behind him, with Zimmer striking out three and walking one in one and two-thirds innings. Holland worked two perfect innings with three strikeouts.
Freeman had two hits, but a costly pick off, in filling in for Ramirez, who was held out to rest a bruised left thumb. Lindor went 1-for-3 on the night with a pair of RBI; he is 18-for-36 in his career against Junis with five home runs, including his two-run shot on Tuesday night. Leon had two hits and his second homer of the year while driving in a pair. The Indians had just four opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position, including twice in the ninth, succeeding only on Santana’s first inning home run.
The Royals spread the love around, with eight of nine lineup spots reaching safely on the night while the club rapped out ten hits. Gordon was one of only two players in the lineup to record more than one hit. Merrifield, the other, homered and doubled to provide a team-high three runs (giving him 25 on the year) with two runs scored. Lopez drove in a pair and scored twice, benefiting multiple ways from the Tribe’s defensive miscues.
Prior to the game, the Royals placed outfielder/designated hitter Jorge Soler on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain. The contract of utility man Matt Reynolds was selected from the team’s alternate training site. He started and hit sixth in the lineup, going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts.
Game three of the four-gamer from Cleveland is scheduled for another 6:10 PM ET start on Wednesday night from Progressive Field. The Indians will send Carlos Carrasco (2-3, 3.43 ERA) to the rubber against left-hander Danny Duffy (2-3, 4.83 ERA).
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