First came the 90th All-Star Game on July 9 and all the festivities surrounding it. To say Cleveland and the Indians put their best foot forward is an understatement.
Then came a 10-game homestand, which ended Sunday with the Indians beating the Royals, 5-4. The Indians (57-41) went 7-3 to move within three games of the first-place Twins in the AL Central. Cleveland also moved into sole possession of the first AL wild card position during the stretch.
The Indians now hit the road for seven games against Toronto and the Royals following a homestand that did wonders for the city and the organization. The Indians opened the stand with two straight losses against the Twins before winning seven of the next eight games.
“We are really determined on catching the Twins and winning this division,” said second baseman Jason Kipnis. "We don’t get deterred by just one loss. We just want to stay the course and keep playing good baseball.
“You are seeing a lot of guys get comfortable in this lineup. . .We’re expecting to win now.”
After the Indians lost to the Royals 1-0 on Saturday night, Tribe rookie Zach Plesac overcame a slow start to go six innings on Sunday for his first win since June 23 against the Tigers. The win may have had something to do with the fact it didn’t rain. Three of Plesac’s first nine starts were delayed by rain, including Tuesday night’s start against the Tigers that saw him rained out after three scoreless innings.
Plesac (4-3, 3.50) allowed two runs on four hits. He struck out six and walked two in his second start against the Royals.
“I think his level of competitiveness is kind of carrying him at a time when he’s still young to this league with a lot to learn about himself," said Indians manager Terry Francona. “What we do know is that he’ll compete.”
The Royals led 2-0 through 2 1/2 innings. Plesac opened the game with two quick outs, but then lost the plate. He walked Hunter Dozier on a 3-2 pitch and Jorge Soler on a 3-1 pitch. Cheslor Cuthbert doubled for a 1-0 lead, but third baseman Jose Ramirez saved Plesac further damage as he made a diving stop against Humberto Arteaga and threw him out at first to end the inning.
Soler pushed Kansas City’s lead to 2-0 with a two-out homer in the third. It was his 27th of the season.
Francisco Lindor evened the score for the Indians in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer against Royals starter Glenn Sparkman (3-6, 4.67). Lindor was DHing for the second time in the last five games to give his legs and mind a break.
“He didn’t get an All-Star break," Francona said, referring to Lindor playing in his fourth straight All-Star Game. “I wanted to give him the whole day off, but he talked his way into DHing.”
The homer was Lindor’s 16th of the season.
The score stayed tied until Ramirez broke it with a leadoff homer in the sixth. It’s the first time Ramirez and Lindor have homered in the same game this season. Last year they did it 10 times.
“Maybe they’ll match that this year,” Francona said. “That’s not out of the question yet. Just hold off. There’s some time.”
Ramirez’s homer gave him 10 for the season. The Indians now have six players with 10 or more homers this year.
The Indians added two more runs in the sixth. Kevin Plawecki had an RBI single, and rookie Oscar Mercado singled home Plawecki to end Sparkman’s day. He allowed five runs, four earned, in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out one and walked two.
The Royals made it 5-3 in the eighth on three straight two-out singles by Dozier, Soler and Cuthbert against Adam Cimber.
Brad Hand pitched the ninth for his 27th save in 28 chances. He allowed a leadoff homer to Bubba Starling, but struck out the next three batters in order.
“His heartbeat never speeds up,” Francona said. “He made one bad pitch to Bubba Starling and then made a lot of good pitches.”
The Indians open a three-game series against Toronto at Rogers Centre on Monday night. Mike Clevinger (3-2, 3.57), Trevor Bauer (9-7, 3.67) and Shane Bieber (9-3, 3.69) will start for the Tribe.
The Jays will counter with Ryan Borucki, who will be making his first start of the season, Aaron Sanchez (3-14, 6.26) and Marcus Stroman (6-10, 3.06). All three games will start at 7:07 p.m. SportsTime Ohio will carry Monday’s and Wednesday’s games. YouTube will carry Tuesday’s game exclusively. WLKR 95.3 FM will air the series.