KANSAS CITY, Mo. — And Thursday night the Royals go for a three-game sweep.
After a miserable month, and an even worse West Coast trip, the Royals made it two in a row over the Cleveland Indians with a 5-2 victory Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
“After two wins in a row,” shortstop Alcides Escobar said, “everybody is saying, `Come on, Keep going. Keep playing hard.’ It’s so much better.”
The Royals have already clinched their first winning series since a three-game sweep over Tampa Bay on June 25-27 at the K. In-between were eight straight losing series, including four to opponents with losing records.
Right-hander Luis Mendoza (5-7) produced his fifth quality start in six outings by yielding just two runs and four hits in an efficient performance that saw him throw 94 pitches in 7 1/3 innings.
“I felt good the whole game,” he said. “My teammates gave me some runs. I’m just happy with the start. It was a challenge to face a lot of lefties (there were six lefties and two switch-hitters in the Indians’ lineup).”
And the Royals, as they did in Tuesday’s 8-3 victory, struck for an early lead. This time, they nicked Indians starter Zach McAllister (4-3) for two runs in the first inning and two more in the second.
“It was uphill (all last week on the West Coast),” second baseman Chris Getz said. “To play with a lead is definitely a different feeling. You put up some runs early, and you can go out and just play the game instead of playing catch-up.”
Instead, it was the Indians, who have lost five straight and 10 of their last 13, who played from behind.
“No one wants to be playing catch-up baseball,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said, “especially when you’re in a losing streak. It makes it harder, especially for our lineup. We don’t have a powerhouse here.”
The Royals’ attack, like Mendoza, was efficient in generating its five runs on just six hits. Lorenzo Cain had a single in the two-run first and a two-out RBI double in the fifth. The Royals’ two-run second all started with two outs.
Mendoza exited after Jack Hannahan’s one-out double in the eighth. José Mijares hit Shin-Soo Choo – or so believed umpire Mike Everitt. Replays suggested otherwise, and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with an RBI single to left.
That run was charged to Mendoza.
Jason Kipnis’ grounder to second moved the runners to second and third, but Mijares avoided further damage by retiring Michael Brantley on a routine fly to left.
Greg Holland worked a one-two-three ninth for his first save since replacing departed Jonathan Broxton as the bullpen’s closer. The Royals traded Broxton to Cincinnati prior to Tuesday’s game for two minor-league pitchers.
“I was kind of amped up today,” Holland admitted, “but I had to calm myself down and tell myself it was just another three-run game. Fortunately, you get that three-run lead you can just attack that strike zone.”
The Royals scored twice in the first inning after McAllister issued a one-out walk, on four pitches, to Alcides Escobar.
Cain’s single up the middle moved Escobar to second before the runners executed a double steal. A wild throw to third by catcher Carlos Santana enabled Escobar to score, while Cain moved to third.
“With one out, and Billy (Butler) up,” Escobar said, “I’m going. They don’t throw too many fastballs to Billy.”
Butler’s grounder to second produced the second run.
Mendoza worked around a one-out error by third baseman Mike Moustakas in the second. Moustakas retreated to handle an in-between hop on a grounder by José Lopez before bouncing a throw.
Moustakas atoned with a fine charging play on Johnny Damon’s chopper to the left side and made a strong throw for the out. First baseman Eric Hosmer then saved a run by shagging Casey Kotchman’s sharp grounder for the final out.
The Royals extended their lead to 4-0 with a two-out burst in the second inning.
Getz walked, stole second and scored on Jarrod Dyson’s RBI single to center. Dyson then stole second – on a pitchout – and scored on Alex Gordon’s RBI double into the left-center gap.
It was Gordon’s league-leading 37th double of the season.
“I just wasn’t commanding the zone like I needed to,” McAllister said. “I think later in the game, I got a lot better with getting strike one. When I get strike one, I feel like I’m able to make good pitches later in the count. I wasn’t doing that early on.”
The Indians got one run back on Santana’s one-out homer in the fourth that, an umpires’ review confirmed, just cleared the right-field wall.
The Royals answered in the fifth with another two-out run. Escobar grounded a single through the right side and scored from first when Cain pulled an RBI double past third. That made it 5-1.
Mendoza benefited from some slick infield defense after starting the seventh with a walk to Santana. Moustakas made a diving stop to his left on José Lopez’s liner and threw to second from his knees.
The throw was slightly off-line, but Getz made the catch while holding the base – and then made a strong throw to first for the double play.
“You know how it is at third,” Moustakas said. “The ball is hit, and you just react to it. I took a step to my left and had to dive. After that, all I’m thinking is, `Get the ball over to Getzie.’
“I didn’t make a good throw at all, but Getzie caught it, stayed on the bag and made an unbelievable turn. More of the credit goes to him.”
The play was good enough for credit all around.
“You’re not going to see a tougher double play than Moose and Getz turned on that one ball,” manager Ned Yost said. “That was a huge double play at that time.”