Indians 3, Royals 1
Casey Blake and Grady Sizemore hit consecutive fifth-inning homers in a 3-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night that kept Cleveland a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees in the wild-card chase.
Scott Elarton (10-7) gave up one run and five hits in 7 2-3 innings as the Indians won for the 10th time in 11 games to remain 4 1/2 games back of first-place Chicago in the AL Central.
“It’s hard not to look at the standings, but you know what’s going on,” said Blake, whose two-run homer put Cleveland ahead 2-1. “We expect to win every game, but we can’t afford to start looking at other teams.”
Cleveland is a major-league best 31-11 since July 31, cutting a division deficit that was 15 games on Aug. 1. The Indians open a three-game series at Chicago on Monday and conclude the regular season with three games against the White Sox at Jacobs Field.
“Anything is doable,” Blake said. “It’s pretty amazing that the lead has diminished like that.”
Kansas City won two of three from Chicago before coming to Cleveland. The Royals lost their 97th game, seven shy of the team record set last season.
Elarton held the Royals hitless until Aaron Guiel singled to start the fourth. Guiel was quickly erased on a double play, one of four turned by the Indians.
“Go figure,” Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said. “You hit into four double plays, that’s not good.”
Kansas City’s only run was a two-out homer by Mark Teahen in the fifth—the 29th long ball allowed by the right-hander this year.
“I have no idea why I was getting double plays,” said Elarton, who was the beneficiary of three while he was on the mound. “Defense is a good feeling behind you.”
“Reaching 10 is nice, but it is much more exciting to be in the race,” said Elarton, who had not won more than four in a season at the major league level since going 17-7 for Houston in 2000.
Before the game, manager Eric Wedge said he would not skip Elarton or any other starter in order to get a certain matchup down the stretch as Cleveland seeks to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Cleveland starters are 10-2 with a 1.83 ERA in the last 15 games.
“All five starters have been as consistent as you can be,” Wedge said. “And that’s the way we’ll play it out.”
After Teahen’s fourth homer gave Kansas City a 1-0 lead, Aaron Boone drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the fifth against Jimmy Gobble (1-1) and Blake snapped a personal 0-for-13 skid with his 21st homer for a 2-1 lead.
Sizemore then pulled a 2-0 pitch into the Royals bullpen for his 20th homer and his third straight hit off the left-hander.
“The more I play, the better I feel,” said Sizemore, who has hit .325 (49-for-151) with eight homers and 28 RBIs over his last 37 games. He joined Roberto Alomar (2001) as the only Indians with 20 homers, doubles and steals along with 10 triples in a season.
Gobble gave up three runs and five hits in four-plus innings, striking out six.
Hernandez was part of all four double plays as he replaced Ronnie Belliard at second base. Belliard sat out with an abdominal strain. … Sizemore was thrown out trying for his 21st stolen base in the seventh, but became the seventh Indians player with 20 steals and 20 homers in a season, joining Alomar, Matt Lawton, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Bobby Bonds and Toby Harrah. … Kansas City lost 104 last season and 100 in 2002. The Royals also lost 97 in 2001, 1999 and 1970. … The Indians have homered in 13 of 14 games, hitting 26 over the fence in that span.