CLEVELAND -- The cold wind swirling around Progressive Field had been toying with fly balls to left field all weekend. So when Yan Gomes lifted a pitch from Royals reliever Brandon Maurer in that direction in the ninth inning on Sunday, the Indians catcher was hoping and praying."I knew I
CLEVELAND -- The cold wind swirling around Progressive Field had been toying with fly balls to left field all weekend. So when Yan Gomes lifted a pitch from Royals reliever Brandon Maurer in that direction in the ninth inning on Sunday, the Indians catcher was hoping and praying.
"I knew I got it," Gomes said. "But, then I kept looking up and seeing [Royals left fielder Jon] Jay running after it. I was like, 'Oh no, is the wind going to kill it?'"
It didn't. Gomes' shot just cleared the 19-foot wall in Cleveland for a two-run, walk-off home run that propelled the Indians to a dramatic 3-1 victory over the Royals. Cleveland only scored six runs in the frigid three-game series, but that was just enough to eke out two victories, buying a little more time for the team's struggling offense to get going.
Gomes tore around the bases with his right arm hoisted skyward, while his teammates stormed the field for a celebratory mob that surely brought a warm ending to the day's run-starved affair. The blast was a drastic contrast from Cleveland's first breakthrough -- a check-swing RBI groundout from Jose Ramirez in the eighth.
In the end, all that mattered was it added up to a one in the win column.
"We needed the win and we got a win," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
The late rally helped on a couple of fronts.
First, Ramirez's unusual chopper in the eighth -- which scored Bradley Zimmer from third base -- halted Cleveland's scoreless drought at 23 innings. That represented the longest such stretch in Francona's six-season run at the helm with the Indians. The Tribe had not experienced a scoreless streak that long since a 24-inning spell that ran from Aug. 26-29, 2012.
That game-tying groundout from Ramirez also helped Indians starter Mike Clevinger avoid what would have been a hard-luck loss. Over a career-high 7 1/3 innings, Clevinger limited Kansas City to one run (via a triple from Jay in the fifth) on nine hits, ending with four strikeouts and two walks. With the help of his defense, Clevinger wiggled free of a handful of jams (twice courtesy of inning-ending double plays).
"This is definitely a step in the right direction," said Clevinger, who has a 0.71 ERA through two starts. "Today was not the prettiest one, but it was a good grind, a good battle. Show myself that this can consistently work on bad days."
Similarly, the lineup found a way to deliver. There was no success for six innings against Royals right-hander Jason Hammel, whose outing followed the six shutout innings that starter Ian Kennedy logged Saturday against the Tribe in a 1-0 win. But, finally, Cleveland caught a couple breaks, and Gomes hammered a pitch.
"Things are going to start coming our way," Gomes said. "We're going to keep battling and keep battling. That's one way to get it done -- I'll tell you that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Whatever works: Cleveland snapped its scoreless drought with an unusual sequence in the eighth inning. Zimmer led off with a walk, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Francisco Lindor. Jason Kipnis then reached on a chopper back to reliever Justin Grimm, who bobbled the ball and made a poor throw to first for an error. With runners on the corner, Ramirez checked his swing, but made contact with the ball. It rolled to Grimm, who had no shot at stopping a hustling Zimmer from scoring from third. Ramirez was thrown out at first, but the odd play pulled the game into a 1-1 tie.
"We had 75 feet of grounders. We tied it," Francona said. "We obviously have some work to do offensively and we will. But, it's nice to win a game like that."
Don't run on Zim: Throughout his rookie campaign last year, Zimmer flashed a strong arm from center for the Tribe. That has continued this season and it cost Kansas City a run on Sunday. With two outs in the third, Jay tried to score from second on a single up the middle by Mike Moustakas. Zimmer gloved the ball and fired it 233 feet on the fly (per Statcast™) to Gomes, who applied the tag for an impressive inning-ending out.
"Man. He gave me so much time," Gomes said. "I was like, 'Oh man, don't mess up. Just tag him.' Usually, he keeps the ball low and it's usually like a one-hopper to me. That ball had no intentions of going downwards, man. I'm pretty sure if I let it go, it might've gone and hit the backstop in the air. It was that good of a throw. The kid's got tools, man. He's pretty unbelievable out there."
Hammel works out of trouble: The Indians' biggest threat against Hammel came in the fifth when Yonder Alonso singled to lead off, and with one out, Tyler Naquin singled. But Hammel came back and struck out Zimmer on a 3-2 fastball that just nicked the outside corner. Then with the shift on, Lindor grounded out to the right side, and Hammel preserved a 1-0 lead.
"I could hear it coming in. You knew from the flight path, before it got to second base, he was going to be on the money. I was pumped." -- Clevinger, on Zimmer's throw in the third
"He's like a ninja back there. I always appreciate those outs from him." -- Clevinger, on Gomes picking off Moustakas at first base in the sixth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The announced temperature at first pitch for Sunday's game was 32 degrees, marking the coldest regular-season game on record at Progressive Field (1994-present). The previous record of 33 degrees occurred twice (April 5 and 7 in 1996).
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Royals challenged a safe call in the eighth inning when Ramirez tapped a check-swing grounder down the third-base line and the throw to first seemingly pulled first baseman Whit Merrifield off the bag. The call was overturned and Ramirez was ruled out.
Tribe ace Corey Kluber will take the mound in search of his first win of the season on Monday, when the Tribe hosts to the rival Tigers in a 6:10 p.m. ET clash at Progressive Field. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner went 3-1 with a 3.73 and 35 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings vs. Detroit in '17.
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Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.