KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Alcides Escobar did something he had never done before -- steal home.
Escobar scored on a double steal in the fifth inning and stroked a two-run single in the eighth, and Bruce Chen rebounded from a mediocre start with a solid five-plus innings as the Kansas City Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 7-2 Wednesday.
The victory kept alive the Royals' lean playoffs. Kansas City is 3 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers for the second American League wild card. The Royals host the Rangers for a three-game series beginning Friday.
Cleveland remains a half-game back in the wild-card standings.
The Royals stole a run -- literally -- in the fifth inning. With one out, Escobar singled and motored to third on Alex Gordon's ground-ball single to right. Then the Royals pulled a double steal that shouldn't have been. Gordon was caught in a rundown between first and second, when Escobar was sneaking down the line.
First baseman Nick Swisher threw the ball to third baseman Mike Aviles, catching Escobar in a rundown. Escobar, however, somehow avoided the tag of catcher Yan Gomes to score, hiking the Royals' advantage to 4-2.
"I say I'm going to home plate," Escobar said of his thought process when Gordon was in the rundown. "Soon as they throw the ball to third base, I say, 'Oh, my God, I'm in trouble right now. I need to do something.' I don't know if it was my instincts. The catcher missed and I got the run. I never (did) that before. That's a really good play in that situation."
Is that how manager Ned Yost drew it up?
"No," Yost said. "We put a hit-and-run on with Bonny (Emilio Bonifacio) at the plate. He missed the sign. The first thing going through my mind was does Bonny know the signs. Then you're watching it develop. You're just hoping Gordon can stay in it long enough and Esky can get off on it long enough. Very seldom do you escape those. And when we did, I thought that was a very good omen for us."
Chen, who gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings while losing his previous start at Detroit, picked up the victory, giving up two runs on four hits. Chen owns a 7-3 career record against the Indians.
"They have a very good lineup," Chen said. "I just try to keep the ball down, make sure I pitch in and out and change speeds. Salvador (Perez, the catcher,) did a really good job of calling the game. I actually shook him off one time and ended up giving up a base hit. I said, 'You know what, I'm not shaking him anymore.'
"I'm very happy the way the bullpen pitched. They bounced back after last night (failing to hold a 3-1 lead in a 5-3 loss). We have the best bullpen in the American League, and they showed that today."
After Chen (8-3) gave up a single and a walk to start the sixth, Yost went to his relief corps. Francisley Bueno, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Will Smith and Greg Holland shut out the Indians on one hit the final four innings.
The Royals batted around in three-run eighth and were aided by a Ryan Raburn error. Nick Hagadone walked Jarrod Dyson with the bases loaded for the first run of the inning. Escobar singled to left, scoring Perez, who had reached on the error, and Lorenzo Cain.
"That's part of their game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They put the ball in play and can run. They shorten up with two strikes, even their bigger guys, and always push."
Indians rookie right-hander Danny Salazar (1-3) allowed four runs on six hits in six innings.
"I think I tried to do a little bit too much, using my fastball in the first inning," Salazar said. "After that I started mixing my pitches. They're good fastball hitters. I just needed to get loose. Once I started mixing my pitches, my change, slider, I didn't throw that many pitches (82)."
The Royals got to Salazar for three runs with two outs in the first inning. Perez hit a double that scored Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, giving him 26 RBIs since Aug. 23. Perez went to third on the throw home and scored on a Salazar wild pitch.
The Indians cut the lead to 3-2 in the third. Yan Gomes led off the inning with a single, moved to third on Michael Brantley's double and scored on an error on center fielder Dyson, who booted Brantley's hit.
Cleveland manufactured its second run. Aviles' sacrifice advanced Brantley to third, and Michael Bourn followed with a sacrifice fly to left.
NOTES: The Royals recalled INF Irving Falu, who hit .341 in 24 games over three stints last season with Kansas City, and LHP Chris Dwyer from Omaha, which won the Triple-A championship Tuesday. Dwyer, a 2009 fourth-round pick out of Clemson, earned a 2-1 victory over International League champion Durham, allowing one hit in seven scoreless innings. He struck out eight and didn't walk a batter. ... Cleveland RHP Justin Masterson, who was 14-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 29 starts before being sidelined with an oblique strain, threw from 120 feet before the game and made 20 to 25 pitches off flat ground. He is penciled in for a bullpen session Friday. ... Royals RHP Kelvin Herrera, who blew a save Tuesday, is 0-1 with a 19.64 ERA in five relief appearances this season against the Indians.