CLEVELAND | When Cliff Lee gets to the thank-you portion of his remarks in accepting what now appears his inevitable selection as recipient of the American League Cy Young Award, he needs to mention the Royals.
Maybe before he mentions anyone else.
Lee beat the Royals for the fifth time Friday night as Cleveland opened the four-game weekend series with a 12-5 bludgeoning at Progressive Field.
Sure, Lee has been dominant against everyone. He’s now 22-2 after posting his 10th straight victory. His ERA actually edged up to 2.36 after he weakened in a three-run ninth before exiting with one out.
Fact is, Lee was vulnerable early, too.
The Royals had four hits in the first two innings and also opened the third and fourth innings with singles.
None of that mattered, really, because the Indians, this time, had no trouble with Gil Meche, who lasted just five innings in his worst outing in roughly 4½ months.
Meche, 11-11, allowed six runs and 10 hits while throwing 108 pitches. He gave up single runs in the first two innings and four in a five-hit fifth. Simply put, he didn’t have it.
It was a sharp contrast for Meche from two recent outings against the Tribe, when he permitted just five hits and two earned runs in 14 innings.
The Indians put the game away with a three-run sixth against Kip Wells, who walked three of five hitters. They added two more on Asdrubal Cabrera’s homer in the seventh inning against Jeff Fulchino.
Shin-Soo Choo capped a three-hit, three-RBI effort by opening the eighth inning with a homer against Yasuhiko Yabuta. And this: Grady Sizemore snapped a zero-for-25 drought when he ignited the four-run fifth with a single. He then doubled in his next two at-bats.
But it was Kelly Shoppach who supplied the two killer blows in Cleveland’s 15-hit attack. His one-out homer in the second inning came after the Royals erased a 1-0 deficit in the top of the inning despite having two runners thrown out at the plate.
Shoppach then delivered a two-out, two-run single that capped the four-run fifth and, effectively, ended any doubt.
José Guillen provided the Royals’ top highlight with two homers. He had a 419-foot boomer to left-center field in the homer in the sixth before opening the ninth with a 345-foot shot that hugged the right-field line.
Guillen extended his hitting streak to nine games and boosted his club-leading totals to 20 homers and 90 RBIs. Mark Teahen also had two hits and two RBIs.
Lee becomes just the third pitcher to beat the Royals five times in the same season. Chicago’s Wilbur Wood was also 5-0 in 1971, while California’s Nolan Ryan was 5-1 in 1974.
At least the Royals don’t have to see Lee again _ assuming he isn’t used in a relief role in the series’ remaining three games.
The math keeps growing grimmer for the Royals, who fell to 62-84 with 16 games remaining. They now must go 7-9 just to match last season’s 69-93 record. The tragic-number countdown for clinching a fifth straight last-place finish is now at nine.
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