Tuesday night’s ninth-inning Royals rally spearheaded by Hunter Dozier changed the complexion of the series going into Wednesday afternoon’s rubber match.
The Royals came into their getaway day game against the Cleveland Indians with the chance to go 3-1-1 in their last five series.
But Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer almost single-handed stomped those hopes out. Bauer (6-6) struck out 12 and allowed just three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He received an ovation from the home crowd when he left the game with two outs and two on in the seventh inning.
Behind’s Bauer’s brilliance, the Indians won the game 5-3 and the series in front of an announced 22,246 at Progressive Field. The Royals struck out 16 times in the game. They’ll continue their road trip on Friday in Toronto following an off-day on Thursday.
“He’s got really good arm speed with everything,” Royals outfielder Whit Merrifield said. “Everything kinda looks the same coming out of his hand. He’s got five pitches he throws pretty regularly — his cutter, his slider, his curveball, he’s got a four-seam and a two-seam fastball — and he’s throwing 96 up there, kinda jerky. It’s unique, and it’s a tough at-bat, but we’ve got to do a little better than we did.”
Humberto Arteaga went 2-for-4 and scored two runs. He had the only mutli-hit game for the Royals (28-53), while Lucas Duda hit a home run and Billy Hamilton and Alex Gordon also drove in one run each.
The outing marked Bauer’s fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the season. His 12 strikeouts were a season high, and he tied a career high by throwing 127 pitches.
The Royals didn’t scratch out their first hit against Bauer until two outs in the fifth inning.
“You’ve got to kinda take your hat off to Bauer’s 127 pitches, knowing that they were strapped,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He had good stuff today, came right at us, really commanded his fastball and slider well.”
Meanwhile, the Indians (44-36) scored four runs against Royals starter Jakob Junis (4-7) in the first four innings, one each in the first and the third as well as two in the fourth.
Three of the first four hits Junis allowed were singles. However, a single, a stolen base and another single put Francisco Lindor on third base with one out in the first inning. He scored the game’s first run on Jason Kipnis’ sacrifice fly.
Lindor doubled to start the third inning, and he scored the game’s second run on a RBI single by Oscar Mercado.
Jake Bauers and Tyler Naquin each hit solo home runs in the fourth inning, Bauers to start the inning and Naquin with two outs.
Arteaga’s single stopped Bauer’s budding no-hit bid in the fifth and started a stretch of three consecutive hits, the last one an RBI double by Hamilton on a fly ball that dropped along the left field line.
Junis pitched six innings and allowed four runs, nine hits and one walk. He struck out four and allowed two home runs.
“I made a couple mistakes, especially one ahead in the count to Bauers,” Junis said. “I left a fastball in, didn’t get it in far enough and he hit a homer with it. I wish I could’ve got that one back. Besides that, they got a bloop in the first inning and scored a run. I made some pretty good pitches with my slider today, some good changeups. If I could have just located my fastball a little bit better. They took advantage of my fastballs over the plate.”
Left-handed reliever Tim Hill, recalled from Triple-A Omaha prior to the game, retired the side in order in the seventh, but he allowed one unearned run in the eighth on a pinch-hit RBI single by Jordan Luplow. Hill committed a two-base throwing error on a ground ball back to the mound by Kipnis to start the eighth.
The Royals tried to rally in the ninth for the second consecutive game. Duda’s third home run of the season made the score 5-2 with one out in the ninth. After Arteaga doubled, Gordon’s pinch-hit RBI single moved them within two runs, 5-3, with one out.
Hamilton struck out looking for the second out of the ninth. Merrifield struck out swinging to end the game.