CLEVELAND, Ohio — The last time the Indians faced Brad Keller, they scored one run against him in 6 1/3 innings. To date it is the only game that Shane Bieber has started this year that the Indians haven’t won.
They did better Monday night at Progressive Field in a 5-2 win over the Royals. The Indians have won 14 of their last 19 games to move into a first-place tie with the idle White Sox in the AL Central. The Royals have lost seven straight.
Zach Plesac pitched seven strong innings to win his second straight game against the Royals since his exile to Classic Park ended on Sept. 1. He is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA against the Royals this year, holding them to two runs in 13 innings. He’s 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA against Kansas City in six games since making his big-league debut last year.
“When you don’t walk anybody and have good separation of your pitches, that’s a good recipe,” said Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar, when asked about Plesac.
The Indians didn’t overwhelm Keller (3-2, 2.60). They just beat him a little bit at a time.
They took a 2-0 lead in the second as Carlos Santana and Framil Reyes opened the inning with singles to put runners at the corners. Santana scored on Tyler Naquin’s hard grounder to second that skipped off Whit Merrifield’s glove and was ruled an error. Reyes, who went to third on the error, scored when Josh Naylor ran his way out of a potential double play on a grounder to short.
Reyes was happy to see the Royals come to Progressive Field to complete their 10-game season series against the Indians. Last week at Kauffman Stadium he went 10-for-14, but when the Indians returned to Progressive Field, Reyes went 0-for-9 against the Brewers. Monday night he singled in his first two at-bats and walked before making an out.
“I was having good at-bats against the Brewers, but the hits weren’t falling,” said Reyes. “I feel great at the plate.”
The Indians made it 3-0 in the fourth as Naquin recorded his second RBI with a sacrifice fly. Francisco Lindor opened the inning with a single and went to third on a single to center by Reyes.
The lead should have been larger, but a rare baserunning mistake by Lindor in the sixth short-circuited a potential big inning. Lindor opened the inning with an infield single. Santana followed with a double to the wall in right that normally would have scored Lindor. But it appeared he was deked by shortstop Adalberto Mondesi going into second base.
After stepping on second, Lindor started to return to first base before proceeding to third without retouching second base. The Royals appealed the play and Lindor was called out. To make matters worse, Santana’s double turned into a fielder’s choice on a ruling by the official scorer. The Indians, Instead of starting the inning with runners on second and third and no outs, got nothing out of the inning.
Alomar said Lindor never saw where Santana’s hit went.
“He knew he missed second base, but thought maybe no one saw it,” said Alomar. “It happens. It was a baserunning mistake.”
Alomar went out on the field to talk to the umpires about the ruling because he felt Lindor had touched second.
“While I was out there they replayed in on the scoreboard,” said Alomar.
Mondesi made it 3-1 with a booming 458-foot homer off Plesac with two out in the seventh.
The Indians came back to make it 5-1 with two runs in the seventh. Naylor, Roberto Perez and Oscar Mercado started the inning with singles off Keller. Naylor scored on Mercado bouncer’s to third that Maikel Franco couldn’t handle cleanly. Perez went to third on Cesar Hernandez’s botched sacrifice bunt and scored on Mike Freeman’s sacrifice fly.
Freeman came on in the seventh to replace Jose Ramirez at third. Ramirez left with “discomfort” in his left thumb.
“It’s been a nagging thing that, in my opinion, has been wearing him out mentally,” said Alomar. “He felt it again tonight and we made the decision to take him out of the game and give him a chance to recuperate. We are leaning toward playing Freeman tomorrow.”
Plesac (3-1, 1.32) allowed one run on seven hits. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter. In 34 innings this season, Plesac has 34 strikeouts and two walks in five starts.
“Consistency with my delivery and a good game plan has helped,” said Plesac, when asked about his control. “Mentally, I’m trying to have the attitude to get as deep into the game as I can. The only way that is going to happen is if I pound the zone and mix speeds.”
The Royals made it 5-2 in the eighth as Hunter Dozier tripled off the center field wall and scored on Franco’s one-out single off Adam Cimber. Phil Maton relieved and retired the next two batters. Freeman saved a run by catching Alex Gordon’s flare behind third base to end the inning.
Brad Hand, working for the third straight day, struck out the side in order in the ninth for his 12th save in as many chances. In the last three days he’s 1-0 with two saves.
Kansas City’s RHP Jakob Junis (0-1, 4.32) with face Indians rookie right-hander Triston McKenzie (2-0, 1.69) Tuesday at 6:10 p.m. SportsTime Ohio and WTAM will carry the game.
New Indians face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Indians-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All MLB proceeds donated to charity.
More Indians coverage