Cleveland’s offensive outburst continued Sunday as the Indians (4-4) beat down the Royals (3-6) to complete a three-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals got on the board first as Alcides Escobar doubled in Mike Moustakas in the second inning. Escobar and Brayan Pena then scored on Chris Getz‘ two-run single to make it 3-0 Kansas City. The lead wouldn’t last long.
The top of the third inning didn’t seem as though it would be anything special—it took Royals starter Luis Mendoza only seven pitches to retire the first two Tribe batters. But the Indians managed a spectacular two-out rally, featuring Jack Hannahan‘s RBI single, Shin-Soo Choo‘s two-run double, and Shelley Duncan‘s three-run homer. By the time Mendoza got the final out 11 Indians batters had come to the plate and Cleveland had taken a 6-3 lead.
The Royals got a run back in the fourth when Getz tripled and scored on an Eric Hosmer groundout, but the Indians responded with four more in the fifth. Travis Hafner hit a leadoff home run, and three runs crossed the plate later in the inning on Lou Marson and Michael Brantley‘s back-to-back doubles. Even after Billy Butler drove in Alex Gordon in the sixth the Indians had a commanding 10-5 lead.
But the Indians weren’t done. Casey Kotchman took Louis Coleman deep for a two-run homer in the top of the eighth, and Jason Kipnis made it back-to-back jack by sending the very next pitch over the right field wall. Kansas City rallied for two more runs in the bottom of the ninth but Jairo Asencio still managed to close it out for a 13-7 victory.
The Good: It should go without saying that the Indians’ lineup had a great day. It’s hard to complain about hitting when your team scores 13 runs and 22 men reach base, especially when Carlos Santana had the day off. After averaging 3.3 runs per nine innings against Toronto and Chicago, Cleveland’s offense averaged 10.3 runs per nine this weekend—it’s just one series, but even so it was nice to see.
Everyone in the starting lineup got at least one hit, but special props are due to Michael Brantley (3-for-6 with a walk, a double, a run, and two RBI), Travis Hafner (3-for-4 with a homer, two runs, and an RBI), and Casey Kotchman (3-for-4 with a walk, a home run, three runs scored, and two RBI).
The Bad: It didn’t end up mattering, but the Ubaldo Jimenez the Indians got Sunday looked more like the unreliable starter of last year than the in-control pitcher we saw in his season debut. Jimenez allowed four runs (all earned) on nine hits across five innings, fanning five (a good sign) but walking three (yikes). It’s one poor outing and it might have been partially due to the fluky schedule—thanks to the snow-out and his suspension, it had been more than a week since his last start—but it’s still unclear which Ubaldo we’ll see this year.
The “Huh?”: With the game out of reach and his bullpen drained, Royals manager Ned Yost turned to center fielder Mitch Maier to pitch the ninth—unusual, but it happens. That he was the only Kansas City pitcher who didn’t allow a run Sunday was amusing, but the truly amazing part was that four of the nine pitches he threw (that’s all it took to put the Indians away) were knuckleballs.
Interesting Tidbit: Per FanGraphs’ Pitchf/x data, Maier is the only pitcher in the American League to have thrown a knuckleball this year.