GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- What started as a rare Cactus League pitchers' duel ended in a slugfest on Saturday as the Indians and Royals traded long balls in a 10-run seventh inning. Cleveland prospect Francisco Mejia broke it open with a seventh-inning grand slam to lead the Indians to a 7-6
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- What started as a rare Cactus League pitchers' duel ended in a slugfest on Saturday as the Indians and Royals traded long balls in a 10-run seventh inning. Cleveland prospect Francisco Mejia broke it open with a seventh-inning grand slam to lead the Indians to a 7-6 victory.
Oddly, the only run in the first six innings came with a bases-loaded walk to Kansas City's Whit Merrifield. Both teams opened up the offensive floodgates in the seventh, with the Royals sparking the onslaught with a three-run homer from designated hitter Brandon Moss.
Cleveland starter Danny Salazar was strong for four innings, striking out six while allowing two hits and a walk. In his previous three starts, Salazar pitched a total of 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits and eight walks while striking out eight. Command was high on his priority list as he toed the rubber against the Royals.
Royals left-hander Jason Vargas, likely the No. 3 or No. 4 starter, worked through three scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, walked three and struck out three. He threw 54 pitches, 30 for strikes.
"I thought Vargy really pitched well," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "And it was nice to see Brandon Moss get that first homer. And a nice little rally in the ninth."
Both teams unleashed their pent-up offense in the seventh, with Moss's three-run shot off reliever Bryan Shaw giving the Royals a 4-0 lead.
The Tribe jumped right back into it, with Abraham Almonte sparking a rally with a leadoff single to short. He scored on a Tyler Naquin double and a throwing error from right fielder Hunter Dozier. Richie Shaffer launched his second spring dinger to make it a 4-3 game. Bobby Parnell walked three men to load the bases with two outs, and Chris Withrow entered the situation for the game's key at bat, yielding a towering fly to right that just cleared the fence for Mejia's first round-tripper of the spring.
"It was a good at-bat," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Mejia's slam. "Nobody's going to remember that in October, but it was fun to watch. He fouled off a few pitches, one was over his head, one was at his shoes. He broke a bat. He put together a pretty good at-bat. It was fun to watch us put up a crooked number like that -- I don't care who's in the game."
The Royals staged a late rally in the ninth inning, scoring two runs. With one out Cheslor Cuthbert doubled on a line drive to left field. Pinch-hitter Garin Cecchini doubled on a line drive to right field to score Cuthbert, and Billy Burns singled to bring in Cecchini. Burns stole second and went to third on a wild pitch, but Indians relieverZach McAllister struck out Dozier and Peter O'Brien to end the game.
One of Cleveland's top prospects, second baseman Mark Mathias, left the game with a dislocated left shoulder in the top of the ninth inning when he dove for Burns' grounder to second.
Royals Up Next: Right-hander Nathan Karns will make his third start this spring for the Royals as they take on the Dodgers in a 3:05 p.m., CDT start live on MLB.TV at Surprise Stadium. Karns, who is battling for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, will be opposed by left-hander Clayton Kershaw.
Indians Up Next:Corey Kluber takes the mound in Peoria on Sunday as the Indians face the Padres in a 4:05 ET match live on MLB.TV. The likely Opening Day starter is making his second spring start, and is penciled in for four innings. Kluber lost to the Brewers on March 6 in his spring debut, allowing six runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out four.
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Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Indians on Saturday.