After staggering out of Baltimore with one win in a three-game set against the AL East cellar-dwelling Orioles — they were outscored 26-2, but still managed to win a game — they moved to Kauffman Stadium, home of the AL Central cellar-dwelling Royals.
On their last trip to The K in April they were swept. Tuesday night they lugged a 2-4 record against the Royals into the seventh meeting between the two teams. The vibes weren’t good, but a five-run third inning atoned for a rocky start by Trevor Bauer as the Indians earned a much needed 9-5 victory.
Cleveland (46-38) trails the Minnesota Twins by seven games in the American League Central Division entering Wednesday. The Indians are a half-game ahead of Texas for the second AL wild card spot, and three games behind Tampa Bay for the first wild card position.
Five-run innings are usually a luxury. On Tuesday, this one was a necessity.
Bauer (7-6, 3.74), facing the Royals for the second straight game, faded after a good start. He allowed a two-run homer to Adalberto Mondesi in the fifth to cut the Tribe’s lead to 7-3.
In the seventh, the Royals loaded the bases against him on three straight singles. Two of those hits turned into runs as Oliver Perez allowed a sacrifice fly to Mondesi and Alex Gordon singled to make it 7-5. It took two great (read: fortunate) plays for the Indians to get out of the inning with their two-run lead intact.
“Early on, he had a couple fastballs, but later on he started elevating the slider — and that got him in trouble a little bit,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Bauer. “But he holds his stuff as good as anybody. He just let a couple get elevated on him there.”
Adam Cimber relieved Perez. Hunter Dozier greeted him with a 99.9 mph liner that Francisco Lindor caught with a lunge at short. Jorge Soler, who hit a 451-foot homer off Bauer in the second, sent a liner to dead center field. Oscar Mercado broke in, broke back, but somehow caught the ball.
“Thank goodness Soler used a three-iron instead of a four,” Francona joked.
The exit velocity on Soler’s drive was 113.7 mph. If it gets over Mercado’s head, the game is at least tied.
Who knows how the night may have ended if the Royals didn’t run the bases like the Hell’s Angels on a midnight beer run. Mercado threw out Gordon in the first inning when he tried to stretch a single into a double. Dozier started sixth with a booming triple to center. When Mercado’s throw to third missed the cut-off man and sailed wide of third, Dozier tried to go home.
Ramirez cut him down at the plate with a good throw to Roberto Perez.
The Royals didn’t play a clean game on defense either. They were charged with two errors and there could have been at least two more. When you’re 29-57 that’s how things go.
Bauer allowed five runs on 11 hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one. He’s 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in his career at Kauffman Stadium.
The Indians added insurance runs in the eighth and ninth. Carlos Santana, with the bases load and two out in the eighth, hit a grounder to deep short that Mondesi couldn’t handle. It was ruled a hit as Perez scored for an 8-5 lead.
Jake Bauers and Tyler Naquin led the Tribe’s 13-hit attack with four hits each. It was Bauers’ second four-hit game of the season and third of his career. For Naquin, it was a first. Naquin’s fourth hit, a double with two out in the ninth, made it 9-5.
“Seeing the 6-9 part of the lineup doing some damage for us was big,” Francona said. “Our baserunning was good, we were aggressive — and we needed it.”
The Indians only had three hits in the third, but they sent nine men to the plate, drew three walks and ran the bases well.
Naquin, with the scored tied 1-1, opened the inning with a single against Jakob Junis (4-8, 5.53). Lindor blooped a single into center to send Naquin sprinting to third. Junis, with runners on the corners, struck out Mercado and then lost the strike zone as he walked Santana and Jason Kipnis in succession to bring Naquin home for a 2-1 lead.
Jose Ramirez, with the bases loaded, sent a grounder to first. Kipnis was forced at second, but Ramirez ran his way out of a potential inning-ending double play as Lindor scored and the inning kept rolling. Bauers followed with a double to center as Santana and Ramirez scored. Ramirez, running at the speed of sound, scored easily from first base for a 5-1 lead.
Perez sent a grounder to third. Hunter Dozier’s throw to first short-hopped Cheslor Cuthbert for an error as Bauer scored for a 6-1 lead.
On Wednesday, it will be RHP Mike Clevinger (1-2, 5.89) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (3-4, 4.43) at 8:15 p.m. Clevinger, who has allowed 12 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in his last two starts, is 6-0 with a 2.25 ERA against KC.
Soler is hitting .667 (6-for-9) against him. Clevinger’s last two starts were his first since April 7 because of a strained muscle in his upper back. Duffy, 0-3 in his last six starts, is 2-7 with a 6.89 ERA against the Tribe. Santana is hitting .433 (13-for-30) against him.
Sportstime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game.