Tribe hitters blasted three home runs, bringing their series total to six long balls with one game remaining this season at Kauffman Stadium. Rookie Oscar Mercado collected four hits in his first four plate appearances and starting pitcher Mike Clevinger tossed seven innings, allowing just one run on eight hits for his fourth win in five July starts.
Cleveland (62-42) won for the 10th time in its last 12 meetings with Kansas City, including six straight on the road to match the club’s longest win streak at Kauffman since 2005. The Indians cut Minnesota’s lead in the American League Central Division to a single game after the Twins lost 5-1 to the White Sox in Chicago.
Another result of the hot streak has seen the Tribe surge to a five-game lead in the loss column in the AL wild card picture, including 3.5 games ahead of Oakland for the first wild card spot.
Jason Kipnis’ third career grand slam got things going in the first inning against Royals starter Glenn Sparkman (3-7, 5.25), and Francisco Lindor added a solo shot to right in the second. Kipnis’ slam was the first by the Indians this season. The club hit 11 grand slams in 2018, with the first coming in game No. 2 against Seattle.
Kipnis credited Mike Freeman for his nine-pitch at-bat against Sparkman that showed him all of the righty’s offspeed pitches in a variety of counts.
“You’re just trying to remember all of it when you go up there so you have a better plan," Kipnis said. "He certainly gave me the answer key for that one. A lot of guys are having good at-bats now.”
Jose Ramirez stayed red hot at the plate, drilling his 13th homer in the fifth. It was the 100th of Ramirez’s career and gave him home runs in all three games of the series. He last homered in three straight games Aug. 11-14. Ramirez also singled in the first and has four straight multi-hit games for the first time since July 10-13 of last year.
“That’s Jose and it’s good to see,” Clevinger said. "I feel like everybody’s been on the edge of their seat waiting on him to come back. And some people started to doubt whether it was and now it’s here and there’s no better timing than now, for sure.”
Clevinger struck out seven and did not walk a batter on the heels of his seven-inning, seven-strikeout win Monday in Toronto. He moved to 8-0 lifetime against the Royals and is one of three pitchers to go undefeated with at least seven wins against KC, joining Rick Sutcliffe and Don Aase.
Clevinger said he didn’t feel much pressure pitching from the beginning with a big lead.
“Actually, it’s awesome when the offense does that," he said. "It’s so huge to come out and jump on a big lead early. There’s less pressure on each pitch when there’s more room for error when you’re back out there.”
Royals hitters got to Clevinger for a run in the fifth after Cheslor Cuthbert and Bubba Starling reached on back-to-back singles. Whit Merrifield’s two-out RBI single to left brought home Cuthbert, but Starling was thrown out at the plate without a slide on a one-hop throw by Greg Allen.
Not to be overlooked was Mercado’s effort, as he collected four hits including an RBI double in his first four at-bats before striking out in the eighth. Mercado, who one week earlier put together a 5-for-5 performance against the Royals at Progressive Field, is hitting .363 in his last 13 games with seven extra-base hits, 13 RBI and 11 runs scored.
Meanwhile, Lindor continued to torch Royals pitching with three more hits including his 18th home run in the second. His season average against KC is .438 after going 3-for-5. He has 10 extra-base hits and eight RBI in 12 games vs. the Royals.
Lindor and Ramirez homered in the same game for the second straight night and third time this season. The duo combined to homer in the same game 10 times last year.
Kipnis said he hopes that’s an indication there are more Lindor-Ramirez home run games in the Tribe’s near future.
“Lindor’s pretty steady-eddy, he’s just a damn good hitter,” Kipnis said. “When Jose gets hot, there’s not much like it. When they’re going well, they’re two of the better, complete players in this entire league. I’m happy they’re on our team."
The series and the seven-game road trip comes to an end for Cleveland as the Indians send right-hander Trevor Bauer (9-7, 3.49) to the mound against Kansas City lefty Danny Duffy (4-5, 4.32). First pitch is set for 2:15 p.m. The game will air on SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM.
Bauer will make his 17th career appearance (16th start) against the Royals and third this season. He is 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA in those starts. Bauer leads the majors in innings and ranks fifth in strikeouts entering play Sunday. Duffy lost to the Indians at Kauffman Stadium, 4-0, on July 3 after surrendering five walks.