Merritt, called upon for a spot start as the Indians patch a gap in the rotation until Josh Tomlin can return, delivered 62/3 scoreless innings to lead the Indians to a 4-0 win over the Kansas City Royals Friday night Progressive Field.
The stage wasn't equal to when Merritt tossed 41/3 scoreless innings in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series in Toronto — the night the Indians punched their ticket to the World Series — after Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista said the rookie would be "shaking in his boots."
But one start after being recalled to the big leagues to pitch the first game against the team trying to chase down the Indians (71-56) in the divisional race? That would qualify as another gutsy start.
Merritt (1-0) delivered, working into and then out of trouble and putting together the longest start of his career innings-wise. The Royals (64-63) had at least one base runner in every inning Merritt pitched before he induced the ground ball or pop up he needed to escape the inning.
As he ended the sixth — on a called third strike against Salvador Perez — Merritt pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.
In part because Merritt, who works for weak contact rather than strikeouts, was on the mound, Giovanny Urshela received the start over Yandy Diaz at third base for defensive purposes. So, of course, Urshela came up with the first key hit of the night when he doubled home Yan Gomes in the third to put the Indians on top 1-0.
Austin Jackson later scored Urshela on a bloop single into right field off Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas (14-8).
In the fifth, Francisco Lindor belted his 23rd home run of the season, a two-run shot to left field that extended the Indians' lead to 4-0. He has nearly equaled his home run totals from the 2015 and 2016 seasons, when he hit 12 and 15, respectively.
Friday night's game was the team's eighth sellout of the season. With Saturday's game also sold out, that will give the Indians nine this season, the most since they had 11 in 2007.
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