Tribe Rallies Late Again to Knock Off Royals; CLE 7, KCR 3

For the second day in a row, the Cleveland Indians overcame a big early deficit to steal away a victory from the Kansas City Royals. This time, it required a four-run rally in the eighth inning as the Tribe rolled over the Royals, 7-3.

The end results for Cleveland erased some of the drama that occurred during the game, when a suspect umpire ruling gave the Royals extra outs in the third inning and forced pitcher Sam Hentges to throw many additional pitches to get out of the frame, leading to some extra wear and tear on the team’s bullpen. At the end of the day, the Tribe rallied back to earn at least a series split with the Royals in their four-game set from Kauffman Stadium while pulling within a game of matching the Royals in the American League Central standings.

The Royals jumped out to a 3-0 lead after five innings against a pool of Tribe relievers. After a scoreless first from surprise opener Phil Maton, he ran into trouble in the bottom of the second as the Royals took the lead. Hunter Dozier doubled and scored on a single to center by Michael Taylor. Hentges, originally anticipated to start the contest, came on in relief and got the next two men, stranding Taylor at second after a wild pitch.

Things got a little wacky in the third inning. Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi reached on back-to-back singles. The pair moved up on a double steal to put a pair in scoring position. Carlos Santana grounded back to the mound for the first out, holding both runners in place. Salvador Perez launched a deep fly to right-center. Center fielder Harold Ramirez and right fielder Josh Naylor converged, but the ball dropped between the pair on the warning track. Merrifield scored easily, but Benintendi, unsure of what had occurred, got held up between second and third and was tagged out by Cesar Hernandez for the second out. First base umpire Angel Hernandez met with the rest of the umpire crew and ruled Benintendi safe because of an errant umpiring call on the field and advanced him to third base. Hentges stopped the bleeding, but essentially to make eleven unnecessary pitches in the inning afterwards. He struck out Jorge Soler for what could have been the final out, but was instead the second. Dozier walked to load the bases, but Hentges got Taylor to fly to right to leave the bags full.

Hentges worked around a single and a walk in the fourth, but he gave up a 460-foot clout to center to Perez in the fifth to extend the Royals lead to 3-0.

Mike Minor got the start for the Royals and shut the Indians down over the first four innings, walking two of the first four batters before setting down ten in a row. The Indians finally got a hit in the fifth as Naylor singled to center and moved to second on a wild pitch, but Minor struck out the next two to leave it a 3-0 game.

The veteran lefty Minor got into trouble in the sixth. Hernandez ripped a double to left with one out and was joined on base on a walk by Jordan Luplow. Jose Ramirez reached on a single to third to load the bases, bringing Mike Matheny out of the dugout to retrieve his starter. Greg Holland took over to face Franmil Reyes, but after getting ahead in the count 1-2, his fourth offering was shot towards short. The ball ate up Nicky Lopez and landed in left field, allowing both Hernandez and Luplow to score to make it a 3-2 game. The next pitch to H. Ramirez was sent into left field for an RBI-single, tying the game at three. Holland recovered to strike out the next two to leave the game tied.

H. Ramirez – Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Nick Sandlin completed a strong relief appearance with a perfect sixth to retire all four men that he faced on the night and Nick Wittgren followed with a three-up, three-down effort of his own in the seventh.

The Indians broke the tie in the eighth after wasting a leadoff walk from Yu Chang to start the seventh. Facing Josh Staumont, J. Ramirez struck out swinging to open the inning, but Reyes walked after falling behind 0-2. A wild pitch moved Reyes into scoring position and two pitches later, H. Ramirez drove his second double of the season down the right field line to put Cleveland on top, 4-3. Naylor kept the scoring going, dropping in a single to push across the base runner with the Tribe’s fifth run of the game. Tyler Zuber took over on the mound for the Royals and struck out Amed Rosario swinging, but Jake Bauers caught up with a 2-2 heater up in the zone and drove it over the right field wall for a two-out, two-run home run and two big insurance runs for the Indians in the 7-3 game.

Cal Quantrill came on in the bottom of the eighth, stranding Taylor after his two-out single. He returned for the ninth and struck out Lopez before walking Merrifield and giving up a single to right to Benintendi, putting runners on the corners with dangerous former friend Santana at the plate. He chopped a 1-1 pitch down the first base line, where Bauers fielded, stepped on the bag, and fired to second where Andres Gimenez slapped the tag on Benintendi for the game ending 3-6 double play ball.

Cleveland improved to 15-13 on the year and moved within a game in the standings of Kansas City (16-12). The Indians have won three straight.

H. Ramirez went 2-for-4 with two RBI and is now 4-for-9 through his first two games. Naylor added a pair of singles and his sixth RBI of the year. Reyes and Luplow each drew two walks. Rosario struck out all four trips to the box.

Umpire Angel Hernandez was asked about his thought process of the bizarre third inning play during a postgame interview with pool reporters.

“The harder I looked, the less I could see,” said Hernandez. “So I was trying to read the players to see what they did with the ball. And I had to come out with the right call. I basically guessed on the wrong call. So as soon as I turned around, [home plate umpire] Edwin [Moscoso] started walking toward me. We got the crew together. And we fixed the problem.”

Tribe skipper Terry Francona was less understanding.

“I told Angel, ‘Why does it always happen when you’re here?'” he said. “It was aggravating but I didn’t think there was anything we could do. Believe me, I was thinking about it. We knew it wasn’t a catch. Everybody knew it but Angel.”

The Indians will turn to their ace to claim a series win on Wednesday night. Shane Bieber (3-2, 2.76 ERA) will take the rubber for Cleveland, while tough young right-hander Brady Singer (1-3, 3.09) will look to end Kansas City’s three-game skid.

First pitch from Kansas City, Missouri, is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET on Wednesday night.

Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

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