CLEVELAND -- What was official on Saturday was celebrated the next day as the newly crowned American League Central champion Indians took care of business in a 3-2 win over the Royals at Progressive Field on Sunday. Ace Corey Kluber spun yet another gem, and the Indians celebrated their accomplishment
CLEVELAND -- What was official on Saturday was celebrated the next day as the newly crowned American League Central champion Indians took care of business in a 3-2 win over the Royals at Progressive Field on Sunday. Ace Corey Kluber spun yet another gem, and the Indians celebrated their accomplishment with the long-awaited champagne showers in the clubhouse.
Although Cleveland clinched the division late the night before, when the Twins lost to the Blue Jays, Sunday was the culmination of a successful regular season. The loss also pushed the Royals to five games back of the second AL Wild Card spot.
"We wanted to win this game, obviously," said Jason Kipnis, who started his first career game in center field. "With Corey on the mound, we still have home-field advantage to get to. But, it was almost like a curtain call to play in front of the fans, who have been with us these last couple weeks.
"To clinch, everyone's excited. Everyone's happy. This is one of the stepping stones we wanted to get to, but we all know this isn't the end goal."
Kluber allowed just three singles and no walks to go with nine strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. He leaned heavily on his curveball -- throwing it a single-game career-high 49 times -- and he was able to get both swings and misses and easy outs on the pitch. The Royals were 2-for-14 against it with five strikeouts, and the two hits came in Kluber's final frame.
"He's tough, always tough," said Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando, who got the first hit off Kluber with one out in the fifth. "He hits the corners, mixes it up. Tough two-seamer. Pretty nasty."
The Royals were finally able to get on the board against the Indians' bullpen in the eighth inning when Bryan Shaw gave up back-to-back singles and Brandon Moss drove them both in with a single off left-hander Tyler Olson. However, Tribe closer Cody Allen came in to end the threat, ultimately picking up his third multi-inning save of the season and 28th overall.
The Indians only picked up three hits, but they made each one count. Edwin Encarnacion homered for the second straight day to give the team an early two-run lead, and they tacked on a crucial insurance run in the seventh on a hit-by-pitch, a single and a fielder's choice.
"These guys do an unbelievable job of never letting the moment get too big or too small," Allen said. "Just focusing on the task at hand. And I think that's the only way I think you can win as many games in a row as we did or be down early in the season and come back and battle with some of these teams in our division. This team did an unreal job of doing the old adage -- taking it one day at a time -- and this is what we have to show for it."
Royals left-hander Danny Duffy was activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, and he turned in five outstanding innings on a 65-70 pitch limit, yielding one hit and two runs (one earned) and recording no walks and eight strikeouts.
"Yes, he was sharp," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "What did he throw, 14 or 15 balls today? The one pitch, the changeup that was thigh-high that Encarnacion got extended on, was [the only bad pitch]. But that was encouraging for us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kluber escapes his own jam: Kluber didn't get into trouble on Sunday -- except in the seventh inning. After allowing singles to two of the first three hitters, Kluber got Alcides Escobar to hit a soft grounder to the right side of the mound, but his high throw drew Carlos Santana off first. Kluber was able to navigate the bases-loaded jam by eliciting another soft grounder, this time on a broken-dribbler that he handled cleanly to end the inning and preserve a two-run lead.
"I just made a bad throw," Kluber said. "I got to it fine. I just got under it a little bit and just threw it high."
Insurance run: The Indians' seventh-inning insurance run became the game-winner once the Royals got on the board a half-inning later. Greg Allen reached on a hit-by-pitch and used his blazing speed to take third on Roberto Perez's single to left. Peter Moylan was able to get a ground ball for a potential inning-ending double play, but Giovanny Urshela legged it out to plate another run.
"You never know when or if your name might be called, but you're trying to be prepared for the moment," Greg Allen said. "I'm just fortunate to be able to be in the game in that situation. ... I'm really just trying to take it all in. It's been fun to watch and fun to be a part of. And now to see the guys celebrate with this elation and happiness, it's special."
"It was good. I didn't touch a ball all day offensively or defensively. I had nothing, but it was fun. I tip the cap to Kluber, who's that good that he can make them not hit it to center. And as soon as I get out, he has two go straight there. It was fun. It was good to get the legs under me. Obviously, I had some nerves. I was breaking on every foul ball and everything. I think it's going to come pretty fast for me. We've got two weeks to get going at the plate, and I'm excited about the challenge." -- Kipnis, on his first game in center field
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With nine strikeouts, Kluber reached 252 whiffs on the season. It's the 11th time in franchise history that a pitcher has reached 250 strikeouts, and Kluber is the fifth pitcher to do so. Sam McDowell did it four times, Bob Feller did it three times, Kluber did it once before in 2014 and Luis Tiant and Herb Score each did it once.
For a moment, Francisco Lindor jumpstarted the Indians' offense with a leadoff home run. It was fitting, since the Indians just clinched the AL Central as Lindor set a franchise record with 10 straight games with an extra-base hit, but a crew-chief challenge overturned the call. Instead, Duffy coaxed an easy groundout to open the bottom of the first.
Royals: After an off-day Monday, the Royals open a three-game set in Toronto on Tuesday at 6:07 p.m. CT. Yost has not decided between right-hander Ian Kennedy (4-11, 5.45 ERA) and right-hander Sam Gaviglio (4-5, 4.35 ERA) as his starter. Kennedy is recovering from shoulder fatigue and tightness.
Indians: The Indians begin a six-game West Coast road trip in Anaheim as right-hander Mike Clevinger (10-5, 3.21 ERA) will face the Angels at 10:07 p.m. ET. Clevinger has given up just one earned run total in his past four starts, spanning 23 2/3 innings..
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Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland who covered the Indians on Sunday.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.