CLEVELAND — Rookie left-hander Will Smith basked in the traditional first-victory beer shower Tuesday night after surviving a shaky start to gain that milestone when the Royals powered their way past Cleveland 8-2 at Progressive Field.
“Two beer showers and two regular showers,” Smith reported. “I feel clean. I feel good. It’s awesome. This one is up there with the (major-league) debut. Getting your first win in the big leagues … it’s an awesome feeling.”
Smith knew the shower was coming as he climbed the steps from the dugout to the clubhouse after doing an on-field interview following the game.
“I heard rumors and stuff,” he said. “You could hear them all the way from the bottom of the stairs. I knew I was in for it. Then Davvy (traveling secretary Jeff Davenport) came and got me. He made me take off my shoes and my belt. It was all over from then.”
It was almost over a lot earlier than that.
Smith spit back a two-run lead in the first inning before settling into a groove after the Royals struck back for five runs in the second against Cleveland starter Justin Masterson.
“It was real shaky in the first,” manager Ned Yost said, “to the point where we got (just-recalled Vin) Mazzaro up after they scored two. But then (Smith) just kind of got after it. He calmed down a little bit.
“The lead helped him regain his composure a little bit. Then he just got a little (mad) and said, `Enough of this, I going to start going right after people.’ He did a darn good job from that point on.”
Third baseman Mike Moustakas led the early assault on Masterson (2-4) by hitting a two-run homer in the first inning and, after just missing a three-run homer, contributing a two-run single to that decisive five-run second.
“A real good night,” Moustakas said, “but this was a big night for Will. His major-league W. That’s what today is about — Will Smith winning his first major-league baseball game. It’s awesome for him.”
Smith (1-1) rolled through five scoreless innings after that rocky first before handing a six-run lead to Kelvin Herrera in the seventh. Smith’s final line show two runs and four hits in six innings with five strikeouts and two walks.
“Yeah, I got mad,” he said. “Nobody likes doing bad. I was trying to be too fine in the first inning. I was trying to be too perfect instead of just trusting my stuff and getting people out.
“I sat in the dugout (after the first inning) and talked to Q (catcher Humberto Quintero) and Dave (Eiland, the pitching coach). They told me to just attack them; that I had good enough stuff to just go get people out.”
It represented a strong bounce back by Smith from a rough debut last Wednesday at New York, when he gave up five runs while lasting just 3 1/3 innings in an 8-3 loss.
“It helps when your offense go out there and puts up runs for you,” he said. “They did a great job tonight. I can’t thank them enough … I started getting comfortable out there. I wasn’t scared or nervous or anything. I got into a rhythm.”
Yost said it was still “too early” to say whether Smith would get another start. Rehabbing lefty Jonathan Sánchez yielded one run and three hits over 5 2/3 innings Tuesday in a rehab start at Triple-A Omaha.
The bullpen delivered three scoreless innings behind Smith. Herrera worked around an error and a single in the seventh before Tim Collins and Aaron Crow closed out the victory.
Masterson sure didn’t look like a guy who owns the lowest career ERA in the 19-year history of Progressive Field (minimum 275 innings). While he, too, steadied eventually, it was much too late. He gave up all eight Royals runs in his six innings.
“That second inning,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said, “just sucked all the energy out of us.”
The loss knocked the Indians out of first place in the American League Central Division when Chicago won at Tampa Bay. The Royals (20-28) are seven games behind the White Sox.
The victory also pulled the Royals back to even, at 4-4, on a nine-game trip that concludes with today’s series finale against the Indians.
The Royals, for the second straight game, jumped to a 2-0 lead on an early homer. This time, it was Moustakas powering a 3-1 sinker into right-center seats with two outs in the first inning.
Alex Gordon opened the game with a single, which marked the first time since May 18 that the Royals got their leadoff hitter aboard in the first inning. (Alcides Escobar had a single that night against Arizona’s Joe Saunders.)
Johnny Giavotella’s potential double-play grounder to second resulted in only a force when shortstop Juan Diaz bobbled the transfer. After Billy Butler flied to center, Moustakas hit his eighth homer of the season.
Smith gave it right back in a Cleveland first that started with walks to Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Kipnis. Singles by Asdrubal Cabrera and José Lopez produced one run before the Indians pulled even on Michael Brantley’s fielder’s-choice grounder.
It could have been worse.
Smith limited the damage to two runs by stranding runners at first and third with one out. He retired Aaron Cunningham on a pop to second before striking out Lonnie Chisenhall.
The Royals answered with a five-run knockout that began with an Eric Hosmer single through the left side. After Masterson hit Escobar, the runners advanced to second and third on Jarrod Dyson’s sacrifice bunt.
Quintero’s grounder to first turned into a run when Hosmer beat Lopez’s throw and slid around Luke Carlin’s tag. Gordon flared a single to right that made it 4-2 before Giavotella yanked an RBI single to left.
A passed ball moved the runners to second and third before Masterson struck out Butler. Moustakas then nearly made it 8-2 with a drive to deep right. The ball hooked around the right-field foul pole, although the umpires reviewed the play on video.
Moustakas then settled for a two-run single to right, which gave him a career-high four RBIs. Smith took it from there.
“As a little kid,” he said, “you just dream of being in the big leagues. Now that (I’m) here, it’s an amazing feeling. You can’t describe what you feel when you win your first game. It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true.”