KANSAS CITY, Mo. – From the first pitch, the Royals were determined to not bring the same offensive futility that had sent them into a recent spiral.
Alcides Escobar got around on Corey Kluber’s sinker and sent a shot up the left-field line for a double.
Mike Moustakas drove Kluber’s next pitch to right for an RBI single and the Royals were on their way to 4-2 victory over the Indians before 29,899 at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday.
The outcome allowed the Royals to return to a first-place tie in the American League Central with the Minnesota Twins.
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The opening statement wouldn’t be enough for the Royals, not after the Indians jumped ahead 2-1 in the third. They needed their best offensive inning in more than a week to reclaim the advantage.
With one out in the third, Escobar and Moustakas collected their seconds hits and stood on third and first.
Cain punched a double that touched down near the right field line, and third base coach Mike Jirschele went for two scores.
He sent Moustakas and in a bang-bang play at the plate, Moustakas was called out. With two outs, the prospect of a multi-run inning was in peril.
And if the Royals were concerned about this there was good reason. Since Alex Gordon’s two-run homer in the second inning of a victory over the Cardinals on May 23, the Royals had scored more than one run in an inning once, in the series opener against the Cubs.
But the heart of the order came through. After Cain’s double, Eric Hosmer drove one high off the wall in left for a run scoring double and Kendrys Morales went the same direction for his double that scored Hosmer.
The Royals had three runs on five hits. It felt like an offensive gusher.
And it came against Kluber, which was and wasn’t a shocker.
Kluber had been on a three-week tear. In his previous four starts, he pitched liked he had every intention of becoming the first repeat American League Cy Young Award winner since Pedro Martinez 15 years ago. In four starts, he had recorded 50 strikeouts.
But Kluber hasn’t solved the Royals this season, falling to 0-3 against them.
After the third inning outbust, the rest was up to Vargas, making his second start since returning from the disabled list, and the relief corps.
Manager Ned Yost was forced to shuffle the bullpen after Wade Davis threw a season-high 38 pitches Tuesday. Ryan Madson took the seventh and Kelvin Herrera pitched a clean eighth.
Greg Holland pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out Lonnie Chisenhall to end the game, and he picked up his first save since May 14.h
Superb defense helped protect the lead.
In the fifth, speedy Michael Bourn left off with a single and went to third when Cain bobbled Jason Kipnis’ single.
Mike Aviles hit a one-hopper to Vargas and Bourn was poised to score, assuming the Royals would take the double play and surrender the run.
But Vargas gave a quick look to third and froze Bourn before wheeling and throwing to Omar Infante at second. Bourn looked like he was going to make a move, but Infante froze him as well, and got the ball to first in time for the double play.
The Royals got their outs and the Indians didn’t get a run that others might have been conceded.
Escobar turned the next gem, charging hard and bare handing a slow roller off the bat of pinch hitter David Murphy for the out.