KC Royals: Yes, this team really can beat Cleveland

(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals won their first game against Cleveland this season in the first week of April, then lost 11 in a row to the Indians and had to wait almost six months to beat them again.

Fortunately, the wait between their second and third victories over the Tribe wasn’t as long as the maddening drought between their first and second—just 3 hours, 24 minutes, to be exact.

Kansas City, making its last trip of the season to Cleveland, rode three home runs, including an historic blast by Salvador Perez, and excellent pitching from Brady Singer, to beat the Indians 7-2 in the opening game of a Progressive Field doubleheader that ended at 5:19 p.m. CDT and halted that 11-game skid. The Royals turned right around and won the second game 4-2 behind a bullpen that pitched the entire game and the club’s own version of some small ball. The nightcap ended at 8:43 p.m. KC time, averting another agonizing span between victories over the Indians.

The highlight of the day was, for several reasons, the first game.

Salvador Perez makes history, Brady Singer has career first for the KC Royals.

Hunter Dozier, much maligned all season for his weak bat after signing a $25 million contract extension just before the campaign started, came into the day slashing .324/.361/.735 with three home runs in his last 10 games. He didn’t let up in Monday’s opener—his two-run second inning homer gave the Royals the lead.

An inning later, Andrew Benintendi, who’d been even hotter in his last 10 games with a .463/.467/.659 line and 14 RBIs—gave Kansas City all it ultimately needed with a two-run homer of his own.

But the big homer of the day, at least as far as baseball history is concerned, belonged to Salvador Perez. Perez hammered his 46th of the year in the fifth, a long blast to left-center that broke Hall of Famer Johnny Bench’s single-season record for primary catchers:

The homer also moved Perez into second place on Kansas City’s career list; his 198 home runs now trail only George Brett’s 317. And Perez is only two away from tying Jorge Soler’s single-season club record of 48.

The Royals, though, didn’t win the opener by home runs alone. Brady Singer, hampered all year by control and command issues and the lack of (or reluctance to throw) a reliable third pitch, was in charge from the start. He went the seven-inning distance, struck out seven and walked only one, and didn’t give up any runs until the fifth in creating a bit of personal history: he pitched the first complete game of his career.

The second game was much different than the first.

The bullpen and some small ball give the KC Royals a doubleheader sweep.

When word came between Monday’s games that reliever Joel Payamps was starting the second for Kansas City, it was clear the nightcap would be a “bullpen game”.

It turned out to be a good bullpen game.

Payamps, who’d never made a start in 37 big league games before Monday, provided an adequate opening, striking out two in 2.1 innings before Manager Mike Matheny gave the ball and a 2-1 lead to Domingo Tapia in the third. Tapia struck out Ernie Clement and Myles Straw to end the inning. Tapia struck out two again in a three-up, three-down fourth.

Matheny switched then to one of his managerial trademarks this season—relying on relivers to pitch an inning apiece. Jake Brentz went first and struck out two, Josh Staumont fanned one in his scoreless frame, and although he gave up a two-out homer to Bobby Bradley in the seventh, Scott Barlow struck out Yu Chang to end the night and earn his 14th save.

Offensively, Kansas City didn’t hit any homers in the second game; instead, small ball won it.

After Lopez doubled and Benintendi and Perez walked to load the bases with one out in the first, Carlos Santana, who may need a good final two weeks to increase his job security, walked to force in Lopez with Kanas City’s first run. Dozier’s run-scoring sacrifice fly made it 2-0. He ended the twinbill with four RBIs.

Then in the fourth, Sebastian Rivero’s groundout scored Kyle Isbel, and the Royals led 3-1.

KC scored for the final time in the sixth when Isbel doubled and Hanser Alberto drove him home with a single.

The two victories gave the Royals no worse than a series split. They can chalk up a series win by taking one of the final two contests of this four-game series.

Next. Early trouble haunts Kowar. dark

The KC Royals continue their visit to Cleveland Tuesday with a 5:10 p.m. CDT game. Kansas City’s Daniel Lynch (4-5, 5.34) will face Cal Quantrill (6-3, 2.89).