Cleveland failed to win its fourth straight AL Central title in 2019, but the Tribe was still tough on the KC Royals. The Indians won 12 of 19 games the teams played. But on a nail-biting June night, Hunter Dozier slammed KC to a win.
Trailing 6-3 after eight innings on a warm Cleveland night in late June, the KC Royals seemed destined to lose yet another game to the Indians, a defeat that would compound the sting of an extra-inning loss to the Tribe the night before when Jason Kipnis walked KC off with a 10th inning home run.
Manager Ned Yost entrusted to Glenn Sparkman the next evening’s task of shutting Cleveland down; Sparkman proved worthy until the fifth inning when, pitching with a slim 2-1 lead to open the frame, he surrendered back-to-back homers to Roberto Perez and Mike Freeman to give the Tribe the lead.
KC tied it in the sixth, but the Indians regained the lead with two runs in the inning and another in the seventh. The Royals were staring at another painful loss and, with Cleveland closer Brad Hand coming in to pitch the ninth, any kind of rally was unlikely.
Hand, though, wasn’t Hand on this night. Martin Maldonado doubled to lead off the ninth; Whit Merrifield, Nicky Lopez and Alex Gordon followed with consecutive singles, accounting for two runs and trimming the Tribe’s lead to two. Gordon’s single loaded the bases for Hunter Dozier.
Dozier, an unlikely hero considering the 0-4 night he was suffering to that point, then launched Hand’s first pitch out to left for his first career grand slam; the four-run blast gave the Royals a 8-6 lead and, combined with Ian Kennedy’s scoreless ninth to close the game, gave KC its first win of the season when trailing going into the ninth inning.
Dozier’s slam may not have been a walk-off, but it was the next best thing. Thanks to him, this June 25th game was the second top KC moment of June.