The Indians had a four game lead in the AL Central when they left Progressive Field. They return with a five game advantage over the Twins and a 20 9 record since July 21.
And they received some good news Sunday after starter Corey Kluber said he will be able to start Wednesday, his normal turn in the rotation. Kluber threw a bullpen session Sunday in Kansas City to test his sprained right ankle.
Francona thought the Indians looked tired following Thursday s day night doubleheader split against the Twins at Target Field. He told the team to report late to Kauffman Stadium on Friday and surprised them with a DJ and a pop a shot basketball machine to let them relax a bit. Salazar proved to be an ace shooter at pop a shot, but on Sunday he was knocked around for the first time in six starts since coming off the disabled list July 22.
Salazar 5 6, 4.30 allowed six runs on 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings. In his previous five starts since recovering from a sore right shoulder, Salazar allowed five earned runs and 18 hits in 32 1/3 innings. The opposition hit .186 18 for 112 against him in those five games. The Royals hit .500 12 for 24 against him on Sunday.
Terry Francona says Danny Salazar created too much traffic on the bases. There was so much traffic on the bases , said Francona. I think he only had one walk, but there were 12 hits. He had one clean inning, but man every inning he had to work.
He didn t have his best fastball most of the day. There were times we saw it, but it wasn t really crisp.
Jason Hammel 6 9, 4.73 beat the Indians for the third time this season. He held them to three runs on five hits in six innings. Hammel is 3 0 with a 3.38 ERA against the Indians this season.
The Royals, who entered the game 11/2 games out of the AL s second wild card spot, took a 2 0 lead in the second on singles on singles by Alcides Escobar and Cam Gallagher.
Tribe shortstop Francisco Lindor made it a 2 2 game in the third with a homer off the right field foul pole following a leadoff bunt single by Bradley Zimmer. It was Lindor s 20th homer of the season.
In the fourth Rajai Davis Jersey, the Indians took a 3 2 lead on Austin Jackson s sacrifice fly. Consecutive singles by Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana put runners on the corners for Jackson.
Salazar did not protect the lead long. Cheslor Cuthbert, with two out in the fourth, sent an 0 2 change up over the left field fence to tie the game at 3 3. It was just his second homer of the season.
I think that was the first breaking pitch that I tried to throw for a strike, said Salazar. Obviously, it wasn t a good idea, especially when my curveball was working really good today. I was using it. Like I said, it wasn t a good idea to throw it for a strike.
Danny Salazar I didn t do my job today. The Royals won it with three two out runs in the fifth. After a leadoff single by Eric Hosmer, Salazar retired Melky Cabrera and Mike Moustakas. Those were his last outs of the afternoon.
Hosmer came around to score for a 4 3 lead after consecutive singles by Jorge Bonifacio and Escobar. Zach McAllister relieved and gave up a two run single to Cuthbert.
The Royals added an insurance run on Escobar s sacrifice fly in the seventh. Jackson tripled and scored on Yan Gomes grounder in the ninth for the Tribe s final run.
The season series between the Indians and Royals is tied at 6 6.
After the game, the Indians players decided to play music in the clubhouse even though they lost because the trip overall was a success.
It s funny, because I was actually joking with my wife, said Gomes. I was like, Man, if we go 8 3 on this road trip, we re going to be in a good spot. It was four cities in 10 days or whatever it was.
We knew it was going to be a nice little grind, but we toughed it out and won every series on the road, and it was against good ballclubs. That should give us a lot of confidence.
What it means
Lindor has a chance to tie or set a single season record for homers by Tribe shortstops. Asdrubal Cabrera set the record with 25 in 2011. Jhonny Peralta had 24 in 2005.
It was Lindor s 11th homer against the Royals in his career. That s more than doubles his next favorite team to go deep against, the White Sox, with five.
The Indians and Royals drew 27,417 to Kauffman Stadium on Sunday. First pitch was at 2 17 p.m. with a temperature of 85 degrees.
The three game series drew 97,595.
The Indians open a four game series against Boston on Monday night at Progressive Field. Right hander Mike Clevinger 6 5, 3.75 will face the Red Sox and lefty Eduardo Rodriguez 4 3, 3.97 on Monday at 7 10 p.m. SportsTime Ohio http://www.indiansfanaticsapparel.com/jose-ramirez-jersey-c-20.html, WTAM/1100 and WMMS/AFM 100.7 will carry the game.
Clevinger will be making his first start since Aug. 12, when he threw seven scoreless innings in a 3 0 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field. His last appearance came in relief on Thursday in the second game of a doubleheader against the Twins. He pitched 2 2/3 innings and took the loss.
Rodriguez, on the DL from June 2 to June 17 with a right knee injury, is 0 2 his last seven starts. He is 1 0 with a 1.13 ERA in one career start against the Indians. Clevinger is 0 1 against the Red Sox, losing to them on July 31 at Fenway Park.