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Indians edge KC to shrink magic number to 5

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- The Royals will not be wearing the division crown this year. In a 4-3 win over Kansas City on Wednesday night, Corey Kluber continued to build his American League Cy Young Award case, Jose Ramirez roped three doubles and the Indians marched closer to an AL Central title.

First-place Cleveland moved 7 1/2 games in front of the Tigers, whose game in Minnesota was postponed Wednesday night, and the Tribe reduced its magic number to five with 11 games to play. As for the reigning World Series champion Royals, their seventh loss in 10 games officially knocked them out of the Central race.

Full Game Coverage

CLEVELAND -- The Royals will not be wearing the division crown this year. In a 4-3 win over Kansas City on Wednesday night, Corey Kluber continued to build his American League Cy Young Award case, Jose Ramirez roped three doubles and the Indians marched closer to an AL Central title.

First-place Cleveland moved 7 1/2 games in front of the Tigers, whose game in Minnesota was postponed Wednesday night, and the Tribe reduced its magic number to five with 11 games to play. As for the reigning World Series champion Royals, their seventh loss in 10 games officially knocked them out of the Central race.

Full Game Coverage

"It's what we work for," Kluber said of closing in on a division title. "All offseason, Spring Training, you play games early on in the year to have this chance later on come September. We know we're in a good spot, but we're not really looking ahead. We know we still have work to do."

The Royals' elimination number for the second AL Wild Card spot is six.

Kluber, who is vying for his second career AL Cy Young Award, limited Kansas City to two runs over 6 1/3 innings, in which he piled up nine strikeouts against a pair of walks. Kansas City's only breakthrough against Kluber came within a string of four consecutive two-out singles in the third inning. Kluber then struck out seven of the final 12 batters he faced.

"Kluber is always tough," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's a Cy Young Award candidate and he's just always tough. He mixes his pitches so well, but when he's got his curveball going, it's next to unhittable."

Salvador Perez belted his 21st home run in the ninth off Tribe closer Cody Allen, who halted Kansas City's rally there for his 28th save of the year. Perez's homer was a towering shot that had a launch angle of 45.5 degrees, the third highest in the Majors this season, per Statcast™. Mark Teixeira's home run with a launch angle of 47.8 degrees was the highest.

Video: KC@CLE: Perez jacks solo homer in the top of the 9th

Also in the ninth, Cleveland's Roberto Perez became the first catcher to catch Terrance Gore stealing in the regular season in the speedster's Major League career. When Perez cut Gore down on a steal attempt of second in the final frame, it snapped his perfect 17-for-17 streak. Perez pumped his fist emphatically when the out was completed.

Indians catch speed demon Gore stealing

"That was probably the quickest I've ever been to the plate," Allen said. "Roberto's put up some really low numbers [on pop times], but ... he put it on the bag. That was huge. He bailed me out right there."

Video: KC@CLE: Perez nails Gore at second in the 9th

Kansas City starter Ian Kennedy allowed 10 hits and walked two, but the righty played damage control in his 5 2/3 innings. Ramirez, however, helped lead an onslaught of two-base hits from the Indians with a trio of doubles, including one to drive in the go-ahead run in the fifth. Lonnie Chisenhall (RBI single), Jason Kipnis (RBI double) and Carlos Santana (RBI single) also had run-scoring hits for Cleveland.

Video: KC@CLE: Santana collects four hits, RBI in win

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Triple doubles: Three of Cleveland's six doubles (tying a season high for the team) came in the fifth inning, when the Tribe struck for two runs to grab a 3-2 lead. Santana got the rally rolling with a two-base hit to deep right field, and then scored on a double to deep center by Kipnis. Ramirez followed with his third double of the night -- a liner to left-center that scored Kipnis.

"He's been so consistent," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Ramirez. "Right-handed, left-handed, he's shooting the ball all over the ballpark, making plays at third." More >

Video: KC@CLE: Ramirez collects three doubles vs. Royals

Two-out attack: The Royals hadn't done much off Kluber until there were two outs in the third, then they suddenly got busy. Whit Merrifield and Eric Hosmer both poked singles to right field. Kendrys Morales followed with an RBI single to left, tying the score at 1. Then Salvador Perez ripped a liner just over Kluber's head and into center field, scoring Hosmer, and the Royals had a short-lived lead.

Video: KC@CLE: Perez gives Royals lead with single to center

Miller Time: With one out in the seventh, Cheslor Cuthbert delivered a double that banged off the bottom of the wall in right-center field. At that juncture, Francona pulled the plug on Kluber's outing at 102 pitches and handed the ball to relief ace Andrew Miller. With the help of a slick defensive grab at third by Ramirez, Miller induced a groundout from Billy Burns before striking out Jarrod Dyson to escape the inning unscathed.

"I didn't have any problem coming out of the game right there," Kluber said. "With the guys we've got in our bullpen, and the way they've been pitching lately, there's no second-guessing there."

Video: KC@CLE: Miller strikes out Dyson to end the 7th

Rookies to the rescue: The Royals turned to their rookie relievers to get them out of trouble in the sixth and seventh innings. Left-hander Matt Strahm came in for Kennedy with one on and two outs in the sixth. Strahm got Santana to ground out. Strahm loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs, but right-hander Kevin McCarthy was called upon and promptly got Rajai Davis to hit into a fielder's choice.

"Both young pitchers came in a did a great job," Yost said. "Kept us in the game."

Video: KC@CLE: McCarthy escapes bases-loaded jam in 7th

QUOTABLE
"It is what it is. We had a lot of injuries. Not an excuse, but it's been tough. We'll keep playing hard until the end here, and if we don't make [the postseason], we'll come back ready in 2017." -- Catcher Salvador Perez, on the Royals being eliminated from the division race

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his three doubles, Ramirez now has 42 two-base hits on the season. He became the fifth player in Indians history to notch at least 10 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 40 doubles in a single season. Others on that short list include Michael Brantley (2014), Shin-Soo Choo (2012), Grady Sizemore (2006) and Roberto Alomar (1999, 2000).

WHAT'S NEXT
Royals: Left-hander Jason Vargas (0-0, 3.00 ERA) makes his second start returning from 2015 Tommy John surgery in the series finale Thursday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Vargas gave up one run over three innings Saturday against the White Sox. He is on a 65-70-pitch limit this time around.

Indians: Rookie Mike Clevinger (2-2, 4.76 ERA) is slated to take the ball for the Indians in a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against the Royals at Progressive Field. Clevinger has a 2.13 ERA and a .159 opponents' batting average in his past five appearances (12 2/3 innings).

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

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 listen to his podcast.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ian Kennedy, Corey Kluber