KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alcides Escobar’s RBI single in the 11th inning Thursday night lifted the Royals to a 7-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium.
And much more.
It enabled the Royals to complete a three-game sweep and escape what would have been a disastrous loss after building a 6-0 lead in the first inning.
Eric Hosmer started the winning rally with a leadoff single on a hopper through the right side. Chris Getz’s sacrifice got Hosmer to second with one out. A wild pitch moved Hosmer to third.
Catcher Lou Marson appeared to have a play on Hosmer at third but chose to hold the ball. The Indians shortened their infield – and their outfield – with Jarrod Dyson at the plate.
The strategy worked when center fielder Michael Brantley was positioned to catch Dyson’s soft pop for the second out, which permitted the Indians to position their defense at normal depth.
An intentional walk to Alex Gordon got the game to Escobar, which prompted a prompted a pitching change from Esmil Rogers to closer Chris Perez.
Escobar poked a grounder through the left side for the game-winning run.
The Royals have now won three in a row after a rough 1-6 trip to the West Coast and after losing 21 of their previous 27 games.
Aaron Crow (2-1) got the victory after setting down the Indians in the top of the 11th. Rogers, 1-3, was the loser.
Tim Collins inherited a 6-6 game to from Kelvin Herrera to start the ninth. Herrera worked two scoreless innings after replacing Everett Teaford, who surrendered a two-run homer to Carlos Santana in the fifth that tied the game.
Collins pitched a one-two-three inning before giving way to new closer Greg Holland, who did the same in the 10th. The Royals did nothing with a pair of two-out singles later in the inning against Rogers.
But, finally, they broke through in the 11th.
It all came after the Royals built a 6-0 lead and let it slip away.
Cleveland rookie Corey Kluber, recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Columbus, surrendered two homers in that six-run first inning but still worked longer than Royals starter Bruce Chen.
Kluber exited with one out and one on in the fifth – with the score tied at 6-6. That’s how it stayed until Escobar’s walk-off winner.
Chen pitched around two singles in the first, in part, because Shin-Soo Choo, who stole second after a leadoff single, was thrown out in attempting to steal third.
Then … boom.
Gordon opened the Royals’ first by jumping a first-pitch fastball from Kluber for a 408-foot homer to right. It was Gordon’s first homer in 189 at-bats – dating to a leadoff homer June 12 against Milwaukee and former teammate Zack Greinke.
Escobar followed with a single and a steal before scoring on Lorenzo Cain’s single into center for a 2-0 lead.
Kluber retired the next hitter before walking Brayan Peña and serving up a 423-foot bomb to center by Hosmer. That was Hosmer’s first homer in 117 at-bats dating to June 25 and pushed the lead to 5-0.
The Royals still weren’t done.
Getz yanked a triple into the right-field corner, and Dyson followed with an RBI single. Dyson stole second before Kluber ended a 43-pitch inning by striking out Gordon.
The 6-0 lead was the Royals’ biggest margin in a month; they won 11-3 at Toronto on July 2 … and, boy, it didn’t last. Chen quickly went to work on squandering it.
Cleveland got one run back after Brantley opened the second inning with a double over Cain’s head in right. Brantley came around on two fly balls.
Chen found big trouble in the third inning after three successive one-out singles loaded the bases. Carlos Santana looped a two-run single into right field before Brantley’s sacrifice fly to center closed the gap to 6-4.
A walk to José Lopez put the tying run on base and brought Teaford into the game. Teaford ended the inning with no further damage, which left Chen with a line of four runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings – and no victory after holding a six-run lead.
Mike Moustakas ended a zero-for-21 skid with a leadoff single in the Royals’ third, but it came to nothing when Peña popped out and Hosmer grounded into a double play.
The Royals ran themselves out of a threat in the fourth after singles by Dyson and Gordon put runners at first and second with one out. Marson threw through to second on a double steal, which trapped Gordon between first and second.
Dyson reached third easier and broke for home while Gordon was in the rundown – and was thrown out at the plate.
The Indians then pulled even against Teaford in the fifth when Brent Lillibridge pulled an 0-2 pitch through the left side for leadoff single. He stole second before Santana, on an 0-2 pitch, hit a two-run homer over the left-center wall.