KANSAS CITY -- A potential statement series didn't turn out the way the Royals wanted it to, but they did avoid the sweep thanks to a strong start from right-hander Jason Hammel and some offensive help from their bench players.
Hammel turned in six innings and gave up five hits and three runs, and the Royals held back the red-hot Indians, 7-4, Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
"He did what he's been doing a lot for us lately, giving us six innings and keeping us in the game," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The Indians have a 6 1/2-game lead over the Royals in the American League Central and a five-game lead over the Twins. The Royals remain 1 1/2 games back in the AL Wild Card chase.
"Every one of these games, it's a two-game swing," Yost said. "Best-case scenario was the sweep and you pick up three games and you're 2 1/2 out. Worst-case scenario is you get swept and you're 8 1/2 out. And the next-best scenario is to avoid the sweep. Instead of 8 1/2 back, we're 6 1/2 back.
"Yesterday we talked about eight good days of being out of first. Now we're a good seven days."
Alcides Escobar drove in three runs for the Royals, and backups Cam Gallagher, Cheslor Cuthbert and Jorge Bonifacio went a combined 7-for-10 with four RBIs.
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The Indians got a rare poor outing from a starter as right-hander Danny Salazar gave up 12 hits and six runs through 4 2/3 innings. Salazar had a 1.39 ERA in his previous five starts. The Indians' rotation was 8-0 with a 1.61 ERA on this road trip before Sunday's game, and had a 1.78 ERA and 11-1 record in 16 previous games.
"Obviously, you don't want to pitch bad," Salazar said. "You always want to pitch well, you want to be aggressive, especially with teams like this at this time of the season. Every game is really important. We had a great road trip, so that's really good. Eight of 11. We go home now and get some rest tonight and be ready tomorrow to keep on a good roll."
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
One pitch, two runs: The Tribe was still hanging close, trailing 4-3, when reliever Zach McAllister came in for Salazar with runners on second and third and two outs in the fifth. But Cuthbert jumped on a first-pitch fastball and roped a two-run single to right, giving the Royals some breathing room.
"Every inning [Salazar] had to work. He didn't have his best fastball most of the day," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You hope that you can kind of dodge a few bullets there, but at some point, it's just so much traffic that they're going to score."
Wind-blown homer: Shortstop Francisco Lindor got the Tribe even at 2-2 in the third with a two-run homer, his 20th. Lindor got a break earlier in the at-bat when he appeared to foul out in front of the Indians' dugout. Cuthbert appeared to have the play, but backed off at the last moment and catcher Cam Gallagher stabbed at catching it but missed. Moments later, Lindor sent a high fly that appeared foul down the right-field line -- even Lindor didn't race out of the box -- but a strong wind blowing right to left blew the ball back and it clanked off the foul pole.
"One-hundred percent thought it was foul," Hammel said. "Both hits he got, I was confused how he kept them fair. I think on the home-run ball, there was enough wind up there to keep it fair. I was baffled.
"I even asked him, and he just kind of laughed."
It's funny, because I was actually joking with my wife. I was like, 'Man, if we go 8-3 on this road trip, we're going to be in a good spot.' It was four cities in  days. We knew it was going to be a nice little grind, but we toughed it out and won every series on the road, and it was against good ball clubs. That should give us a lot of confidence." --Indians catcher Yan Gomes
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Lindor's homer made him only the fourth shortstop in Indians history to have at least 20 homers in a season. Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta and Woodie Held are the others. Cabrera holds the team record with 25 long balls in 2011.
Indians: Right-hander Mike Clevinger (6-5, 3.75 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Indians on Monday, when the Tribe opens a four-game set vs. the Red Sox with a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt at Progressive Field. Clevinger has gone 1-2 with a 5.08 ERA in eight outings at home this season.
Royals: After an off-day Monday, the Royals will open a three-game set with the Rockies on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium at 7:15 p.m. CT. Left-hander Danny Duffy (7-8, 3.82 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals. He worked five innings last Wednesday against the A's and gave up four runs in a 7-6 Royals win.
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