CLEVELAND -- Yandy Diaz crossed home plate and strutted back into the Indians' dugout in the fifth inning Tuesday at Progressive Field, high-fiving teammates and coaches with a grin from ear to ear.
The designated hitter hit his first Major League home run in the Indians' 9-3 win over the Royals, a 386-foot two-out solo shot into the seats in front of the Tribe's bullpen in left-center field off reliever Jake Newberry. Diaz's homer, and all-around big night, helped the Indians trim their magic number for clinching the American League Central to 10 after the Twins lost in Houston.
"I thought it was a flyout to center, because I didn't make good contact," Diaz said, smiling, through the team interpreter. "But the ball carried pretty well, so it got out."
It took Diaz, a second-year player, 70 games and 243 plate appearances before rounding the bases. But those around him think it's the first of many from the 27-year-old native of Cuba.
"He's going to grow into that," manager Terry Francona said. "When he barrels up balls and is spraying them all over the field, that's good enough. He's a strong kid and with maturity playing the game, he'll learn how to do that."
Diaz finished 3-for-4 with a walk, two RBIs, three runs and a double shy of the cycle to help break Cleveland's offensive drought and end a three-game losing streak. Diaz capped his career day in the seventh by plating the Tribe's final run with his second triple of the season, a line drive off the right-field wall that scored Rajai Davis from first.
"We've been waiting on that, especially with those biceps," starter Mike Clevinger joked. "I think everybody has. … It's starting to come around for him. Even that last AB, he almost put another one out."
Clevinger (11-7) let up Alex Gordon's 11th homer to lead off the fourth, but it was the only damage the right-hander allowed. In the seventh inning, Royals center fielder Brian Goodwin scored on a throwing error by Erik Gonzalez, who had entered as a defensive substitution for Jason Kipnis (2-for-4, two RBIs).
• Kipnis ready to fight for center field role
The showing upped Diaz's slugging percentage to .476 and his on-base percentage to .364. Of Diaz's 21 hits this season, five have been for extra bases, but teammates think that's bound to change once he adjusts to Major League pitching.
"It's fun watching him," said Francisco Lindor, who finished 1-for-4 with a home run. "We all know he's a good hitter and a patient hitter. We all know he has the strength, as you can see. We were just waiting when he hits the ball, when he's gonna hit it out, when he's gonna start driving the ball, and he's been doing that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Clevinger's big night: Clevinger earned the win by holding the Royals to one run over six innings, scattering three hits and a walk against 10 strikeouts, marking his fifth outing with double-digit punchouts this season. The right-hander improved to 6-1 in 12 starts against American League Central foes with a 2.15 ERA, and has won four of his last five decisions.
"We had a night where we didn't have to leave him out there, which was really good," Francona said. "It does look to me like he's kind of catching his second wind a little bit, though."
Lindor's leadoff homer: Once again, it was Lindor who got the Indians' offense rolling with a leadoff home run off left-hander Danny Duffy (8-12), who surrendered three runs, four hits and a walk before departing with two outs in the first with a left shoulder impingement and tightness. Duffy threw 26 pitches (14 strikes) before giving way to Burch Smith, who allowed three more runs in 2 1/3 innings. The Tribe's nine runs surpassed its run total of the three games prior to Tuesday.
Lindor's leadoff homer marked his 31st home run of the campaign and second in as many days. The switch-hitting shortstop has six leadoff homers in 2018, one shy of Grady Sizemore's 2008 record and tied with the Astros' George Springer for the most in the American League.
"We seem to take our cue from him, so I'd say, for the most part, that's a really good thing," Francona said.
Right-hander Corey Kluber (17-7, 2.80 ERA) will start the series finale in a 1:10 p.m. ET first pitch at Progressive Field on Wednesday. The Tribe's ace held the Rays to two hits over seven shutout innings Friday, walking two and striking out eight. Righty Brad Keller (7-5, 3.26 ERA) will start the rubber match for the Royals.