It’s the second straight night the Indians collected all of their offense in one inning, and the second night in a row that closer Brad Hand shut down the Royals in the ninth.
Clevinger (9-2, 3.00) struck out eight and allowed just one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings as he moved to 9-0 against the Royals in 13 career appearances without a loss. It’s the most wins against Kansas City without a defeat by a single pitcher in major-league history.
Hand again allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base in the ninth when Humberto Arteaga singled, but the All-Star reliever struck out pinch-hitter Bubba Starling before retiring Whit Merrifield on a pop to third and getting Jorge Soler to hit into a 5-4 forceout for his 31st save.
Cleveland (76-54) won for the 12th time in 18 meetings with the Royals, and moved back into the top wild card spot in the American League, one half-game ahead of Tampa Bay (76-55) and a full game ahead of Oakland (74-54). The Tribe remained 2.5 games behind Minnesota (78-51) in the AL Central Division race.
Oscar Mercado came home on a Mike Freeman broken-bat infield single in the third, and Reyes launched a three-run blast to left against Royals starter Glenn Sparkman (3-9, 5.52) in the third. It’s Reyes’ 30th home run and third since joining the Indians, giving him 56 RBI.
The Indians’ lineup suffered a blow in the when Jose Ramirez injured his right wrist swinging the bat and exited the game. Ramirez fouled off a 93 mph fastball from Sparkman before grimacing in pain. After talking to manager Terry Francona and head athletic trainer James Quinlan, a frustrated Ramirez left the field and was replaced at third base by Freeman.
“We don’t know a ton yet, as we took him over to get him imaged,” Francona said. “It takes a little while, and we want everyone to see it, just to make sure we get the proper read on it. We’ll probably hang around here (Saturday night) to see if we can find something out.”
Clevinger, whose pitch count soared early in his previous outing against the Yankees, got through the first inning on just six pitches as Merrifield and Soler each popped out on the first offering they saw. He went on to fan seven across six innings of work. A two-out walk to Cheslor Cuthbert followed by an RBI double by Meibrys Viloria in the fourth was the only blemish on Clevinger’s ledger.
“Early, I thought that was probably his best breaking ball we’ve seen,” Francona said of Clevinger. “Then he almost felt too good, and threw too many pitches. His stuff was phenomenal. I just think he got in a mode where he felt so good he was letting it fly — then someone takes a good swing and it’s suddenly a little bit of a different game.”
Cuthbert snapped an 0-for-40 skid with a one-out double in the sixth, and moved to third on a Viloria grounder to first base that required Clevinger to toe-tap the bag on a high throw from Carlos Santana. Manager Mike Hargrove called for Oliver Perez to face left-handed hitting Ryan O’Hearn.
Perez struck out O’Hearn on a checked swing to end the threat.
The Royals cut the Cleveland lead to 4-2 in the seventh after putting their first two batters on base against Perez. Adam Cimber was summoned, and a potential big inning was short-circuited by shortstop Francisco Lindor, who turned a grounder into the hole by Merrifield into a force out and a tricky high-bouncer by Soler into an RBI forceout.
“That play was as good as you’re going to see,” Francona said of Lindor. “We’re looking at a bad inning right there if he doesn’t make that play.”
The Indians and Royals meet for the final time in 2019 on Sunday when righty Shane Bieber (12-6, 3.26) takes the mound against Kansas City lefty Eric Skoglund, who will be making his first appearance of the season. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. and the game will air on SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM.
Bieber is making his fifth career start against the Royals. He is 1-0 with a 5.73 ERA in two starts this season. Skoglund, who served an 80-game suspension earlier this season, is 0-3 with a 12.96 ERA in three career outings against Cleveland.