Clutch hitting leads to Indians 5-3 win over Royals
Masterson gives Tribe another quality start as team gets back on track
CLEVELAND—Solid starting pitching and clutch hitting made for a good recipe of success Wednesday night, as the Tribe took down Kansas City, 5-3.
“I’d rather beat ‘em up and blow ‘em out, but they’re good,” manager Terry Francona said.
For the second straight game, the Royals offense struck for the game’s first runs. Back-to-back homers by Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas gave K.C. the early two run lead in the second off Tribe starter Justin Masterson (0-0, 4.50 ERA).
The Indians ace would settle in nicely shortly thereafter, tossing a strong 6 1/3 innings allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits, walking two and striking out six.
“He gave up the two solo homers, but he reeled it right back in,” Francona said.
Despite giving his team a second straight quality start, the right-hander has yet to pickup his first win this season.
“As long as we’re winning I’m happy,” Masterson said. “That’s perfectly fine, I’ll take however many no-decisions as long as we keep winning the games.”
“He’s a groundball pitcher. When you see a lot of groundballs that means his stuff is working,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “The best part about it is it gave some guys in the bullpen a little break.”
Michael Bourn also gave his team a huge break lacing a two-run triple off Royals starter Jason Vargas in the bottom of the second. Struggling since returning from the disabled list last week, Bourn collected three of the Indians 11 hits on the night.
“I’m just trying to take it game-by-game,” the Tribe center fielder said.
“He’s the table-setter. He’s the leadoff guy,” Kipnis said. “When he’s going, it makes it a lot easier on the guys and the rest of the lineup.”
It was Kipnis though that would end up giving the Royals a run in the sixth, after missing a catch at second base that should’ve resulted in a double play. Instead, the error proved costly as Moustakas gave Kansas City the lead again on a RBI single.
It was the fifth error Cleveland (10-11) has committed over the last three ballgames.
But it was the Royals that gave the run right back a half inning later, as Michael Brantley came around to score from second on a throwing and fielding error by Kansas City, knotting the game up at 3-3. The Tribe left fielder collected his team leading fourth stolen base on the play.
The Indians offense wasn’t done, as Kipnis would also make up for his defense in his next at-bat in the seventh. Back-to-back singles by Bourn and Nick Swisher put two on and two out for the second baseman.
The All-Star came through in the clutch with a RBI double that split the right-center field gap, giving the Indians a late one run lead against Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera (0-1, 3.38 ERA).
“That was a real big hit,” Francona said. “Sometimes you need a big hit at a big time and we got it tonight. That’s how we’re built, I always think whoever is up there is going to do something to help us.”
Hitting just .200 the entire month of April last year, Kipnis has struggled, but continues to improve at the start of this season.
“I set the bar so low last April that it’s kind of gravy here on out,” he said.
“I think he has less far to climb this year,” Francona said. “He’s always a threat, because he can hit the ball all over the field, he can hit the ball out of the ballpark and he can beat you with his legs. We want him hitting all the time.”
Tribe reliever Bryan Shaw (1-0, 1.86 ERA) picked up the win, coming out of the bullpen to throw a quiet 2/3 innings.
Setup man Cody Allen also looked sharp, tossing 2/3 of a scoreless eighth himself. The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run this season in 12 appearances spanning 9 1/3 innings.
Leading by one run in the eighth, Lonnie Chisenhall tacked on an insurance run for the Wahoo’s on a bloop single off Royals right-hander Wade Davis. The hit raised his batting average to a team-high .432 (17-for-38).
“He hit it about 100 feet, so you kind of have to keep things in perspective,” Francona said. “But I was thrilled that it found the outfield grass. That was a big run for us.”
Closer John Axford wouldn’t need any more runs, notching his league leading eighth save with a scoreless ninth.
“It was nice to have a starter go that long and then use our seven, eight and nine guys and come out on top,” Kipnis said. “That’s the way we drew it up. That’s the way we want it to go.”
Cleveland improves to 7-3 when scoring four runs or more, totaling at least four runs in a game for just the third time in their last nine.
Up next for Indians: The Tribe will look to take the series in the finale with Kansas City Thursday afternoon at 12:05 p.m. Right-hander Corey Kluber (1-2, 5.40 ERA) is set to make his fifth start of the season against Royals southpaw Bruce Chen (1-1, 6.60 ERA).
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
I agree with the sliding head first note with Bourn. A lot of the father's of my son's teams always said no to sliding head first because of injury and I always point out that a hand injury is minor compared to a knee injury and the worst injury I ever saw from a slide was Bo Diaz blowing out his knee in KC in 1978.
And I don't care much for the 8 saves for Axford. Doesn't mean much to me. He's been very fortunate to not blow 2-3 of them. His performance to date only makes it a matter of time before he starts blowing a lot more of these. You can't live dangerously like that as often he does and not get burned. He really needs to get a handle on the walks. He may have a 2.79 ERA, but that 4.67 FIP and 6.5 BB/9 scares the crap out of me.
Now that Bourn, Swisher, and Kipnis are starting to hit this team could take off. Still need to tighten up the defense and find a 4th and 5th starter than can go 5 innings. Kazmir and Harang would look great in the rotation right now.
Michael Bourn is clearly heating up.. a couple of RBI's..a couple/three hits.. a couple of okay plays in the OF.. He is showing some of the talent the Indians signed him for..
Lonnie: Hard to believe a guy is hitting well over .400 as the end of the first full month approaches and he just got his first RBI..
Justin Masterson.. didn't factor into the decision, but, it's clear he's dropped a few ticks on his FB velo and added a few "late" inches onto the break in his slider, his sinker and his change up... If you're a RH batter and see that sub 80 mph slider that looks like it's over the middle of the plate breaking away into the LH batters box..you know this isn't going to be your night..
Bullpen: okay.. just a wee bit of drama.. Scrabble gives way to Shaw-shank, who, after giving up a hit the hard way, gives way to Wild Bill Cody who comes into the game with a duck on the pond. Allen proceeds to blow away the Mous..and induce the Sweeper (escobar = to sweep, en espanol) into a can of corn fly out to Doctor Smooth.. The Ax-man cometh in the ninth & after giving up a sharp single to this PITA Dyson, sets the rest of the Royals down in order... Seems like the cast of characters are all badly named in a drama series that NBC TV is going to cancel...
High noon show down for these two clubs.. the Royals trying to earn a split.. the Indians trying to earn a series win and move from the basement of the AL Central to a tie for second place, one game behind the front stumbling De-Toilet Tigers...
Should be a fine day for a game....
Finally stopped rolling my eyes at Bourne's ABs tonight. Now maybe if he can get warm enough to feel his fingers he will start catching a few fly balls.
With the defense, pitching and batting issues it is amazing that the Indians are at 10-11 and only 1.5 gms out of first. If this was the Browns we be excited that playoffs are within reach.
Axford at 8 saves already. When did Perez pick up his 8th save last year? I believe it's a lot later than Axford.