CLEVELAND -- Entering the sixth inning of their Saturday afternoon matchup against the Cleveland Indians, Royals pitcher Jakob Junis looked to be cruising towards another quality start in his young career. He had struck out the side in the fifth, and had retired eight batters straight after allowing a solo
CLEVELAND -- Entering the sixth inning of their Saturday afternoon matchup against the Cleveland Indians, Royals pitcher Jakob Junis looked to be cruising towards another quality start in his young career. He had struck out the side in the fifth, and had retired eight batters straight after allowing a solo homer to Francisco Lindor in the third inning.
In total, Lindor recorded four extra-base hits, and was the main instigator in the Royals' 6-2 loss to Cleveland on Saturday at Progressive Field, a game that was delayed 75 minutes due to rain.
Junis' day began to sour two batters into the sixth, as Lindor and Michael Brantley's back-to-back doubles gave the Indians a 3-2 lead, with the proverbial knockout blow to Junis coming three batters later on Yonder Alonso's two-out RBI single to give Cleveland a 4-2 lead.
Two walks later, and Junis' day was done, an early exit to a promising start.
"Brantley and Lindor are swinging the bat really well right now," Royals manager Ned Yost said after the game. "You've really got to execute pitches [against them]. You make just the slightest variation off what you're trying to accomplish and they're going to hit the ball hard somewhere."
Both offenses traded blows early on thanks to the top of their lineups. The Royals jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Salvador Perez drove in Jonathan Jay on a groundout in the top of first, but it was quickly wiped away in the bottom of the inning when Lindor doubled to lead off the frame and was driven in on an RBI single by Brantley.
The Royals once again broke through in the third inning when Jay and Jorge Soler hit back-to-back doubles to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead, with Lindor again playing spoiler in the bottom of the inning with a 345-foot home run down the right-field line to tie the game at 2.
"Any time you can take a pitch middle-away and drive it over the fence the opposite way, that's good hitting," Yost said of Lindor's home run. "Every hit he had went with what we were giving him. Good hitting. He's not an All-Star for no reason."
As Junis settled into the game after the third, Indians starter Mike Clevinger began to settle in as well, allowing one Royals batter to reach base between the 4th and 7th innings.
"I think I had good stuff today," Junis said of his performance. "The key was a couple of those innings Lindor led off with some doubles. … It's tough to have a guy on second with no outs. That hurt me."
The Indians added two more runs in the seventh inning on Lindor's second homer and an RBI single by Edwin Encarnacion.
Not only did Lindor extend his hitting streak to 13 games, but he also became the third player this year to record four extra-base hits in one game.
Clevinger's seven innings of two-run ball continued his success against Kansas City. He now holds a 2.17 ERA and is 4-0 in seven career appearances (six starts) against the Royals.
"He's always tough on us," Yost said. "They're always tough, but we were in the game right there. We were battling, trying to get opportunities. We had some chances and spanked the ball hard … didn't result in anything."
Both teams combined for 17 hits, 13 of which came from the first two batters of each lineup. Jay (3-for-4, 2B) and Soler (3-for-4, 2 2B, RBI) set the table for Kansas City, while Lindor (4-for-4, 2 2B, 2 HR, 2 RBI) and Brantley (3-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI) propelled the Cleveland offense. This was also the second time this season that both Soler and Jay each recorded three hits -- the first time coming on May 8th against the Orioles.
HE SAID IT
"The top of their lineup is tough. I thought I made a pretty good pitch to Brantley that he pulled down the line. I was close to working out of that jam. I got Encarnacion with a two-seamer and I made my pitch to Alonso, but he just put it in the right spot. Just couldn't close the door on the inning," -- Junis, on where things started to slip away
Royals left-hander Danny Duffy (1-4, 5.15 ERA) will make the start in the rubber game at 12:10 p.m. CT on Sunday at Progressive Field. Duffy will go up against Indians ace and 2017 American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (5-2, 2.62 ERA). Duffy picked up his first win of the year in his last start when he scattered six hits and one run over 5 2/3 innings against Baltimore on May 8th.
** Henry Palattella ** is a contributor to MLB.com and is based in Cleveland.