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Royals stop Indians’ winning streak at 22

By Rustin Dodd • Sep 15, 2017 at 11:07 PM

CLEVELAND — To make the playoffs in 2017, the Royals will seek an answered prayer in the season’s final weeks. To etch themselves into history on Friday night, they simply needed a starring performance from a center fielder with a bum quad.

Lorenzo Cain, heart of the outfield, owner of the most pronounced limp in Kansas City, finished 3 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI as the Royals hung on for a 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians, snapping baseball’s longest winning streak in 101 years.

One night after the Kansas City bullpen coughed up a one-run lead in the ninth, clearing the way for the Indians’ 22nd straight victory, Cain supplied a two-out, RBI single in the top of the sixth, offering the decisive run. The moment silenced a capacity crowd at Progressive Field, which had come to revel in the winning streak and the most improbable story in sports. For a moment, Cain stood atop first base, clapping his hands together four times and sending a signal back to the visitors dugout along the first-base line.

On a pleasant September night — an evening that had the drama and intrigue of October — the Royals and Indians forged a regular-season gem with unlikely heroes (Trevor Cahill), an assortment of ties and lead changes, and a thrilling finish.

By the end of the night, the Royals were perhaps no closer to an American League wild-card spot. Yet they had done something that no team had since Aug. 23: hand the Indians a loss.

The formula was straightforward: Starter Jason Vargas allowed three runs in five innings for the Royals. The bullpen took the reins and seized control. And the offense was opportunistic and timely, scoring its first two runs on solo homers from Alcides Escobar and Brandon Moss, tying the game on an RBI single from Eric Hosmer in the fifth, and taking a 4-3 lead on Cain’s single off Indians reliever Joe Smith in the sixth.

Two former starters would slam the door. Cahill worked scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, inducing an inning-ending double play to escape a jam in the seventh. Mike Minor entered in the bottom of the ninth and worked around a leadoff single, earning the first save of his professional career.

The Indians had taken a 3-1 lead against Vargas in the third inning when second baseman Jose Ramirez hammered a two-run blast deep to left field. On a 1-0 pitch, Vargas threw a fastball that crossed the plate 3.71 feet off the ground. Ramirez, a non-prospect turned utility man turned MVP candidate, unleashed a compact swing and connected near his eyes.

The baseball jumped off his bat and soared into the night. Progressive Field turned electric once more.

The Royals would need to erase a two-run deficit to even the four-game series. They would find a way.

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©2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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