KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- While the Kansas City Royals acquired James Shields in a December blockbuster trade with Tampa Bay to be their ace, it is Ervin Santana who is pitching more like an ace.
Santana worked seven shutout innings and Salvador Perez hit a two-run homer as the Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2 on Saturday night.
Santana (3-1), who is 3-0 in his past four starts, gave up six hits, walked none and struck out five before departing. He was acquired for a minor-league pitcher on Oct. 31 with the Royals agreeing to $12 million of his $13 million contract. He lowered his ERA to 2.00.
"He doesn't panic in tough situations," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He continues to make pitches, no matter what the situation. He never gives in. That's why he's successful. He continues to make pitches in crucial situations. He's been fantastic."
The Indians made it interesting in the ninth when an Eric Hosmer fielding error led to two unearned runs off Greg Holland. Michael Brantley hit a two-out, two-run triple to cut the lead to one run. Holland struck out Jason Kipnis to end the game and log his sixth save in seven chances.
The Royals scored a necessary run in the seventh when the Indians used five relief pitchers. The inning included Bryan Shaw walking two and Rich Hill walking Hosmer with the bases loaded to score Alex Gordon, who had the only hit of the inning.
"I wanted to see a ball up and find a way to get the run in," Hosmer said. "You've got to step out, take a deep breath, don't let the situation get out of control and try to slow everything down."
Indians manager Terry Francona said, "The walks made the inning much harder than we wanted to. That's part of the game. But that's what you have to do, get them in there and keep them sharp."
The Royals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second when Perez homered after Jeff Francoeur led off the inning with a walk. Perez homered on a 0-and-1 pitch from Scott Kazmir to the opposite field. It was Perez's first homer since Sept. 15, a drought of 121 at-bats.
"I've never seen anybody like that before swing and connect with a pitch like that so far off the plate, and he didn't miss," Kazmir said.
Perez said, "I like to hit the ball the other way. Maybe tomorrow I have to be more ready for ball inside. After that, he just threw me in, in, in, every pitch."
The Indians loaded the bases with one out in the third but failed to score. Drew Stubbs, Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera singled, but Santana induced Nick Swisher to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The Indians also threatened in the second when Swisher singled and Carlos Santana reached on a Miguel Tejada error, but Santana struck out Mark Reynolds and Lonnie Chisenhall to end the inning.
Kazmir fanned Tejada in the fourth for the 1,000 strikeout of his career. Kazmir left after five innings and 99 pitches, giving up two runs and five hits while striking out four and walking two, one intentionally. He was replaced by Cody Allen.
But this was Santana's night.
"His arm is tremendous," Francona said. "When he's on, he's really tough. Unfortunately, I think I've seen him when he's been on more often than not. When you have to respect him in the strike zone and you can't eliminate any pitches, he's extremely tough."
NOTES: Left-hander Will Smith will be added to the Royals' roster as the 26th man for the Sunday doubleheader and start the second game. Smith, who is 2-1 with a 2.46 ERA for Class AAA Omaha, beat the Indians last May 29 for his first big-league victory. ... Indians right-hander Justin Masterson, who will start the first game Sunday, is seeking his fifth April win for the second time in three years. He is 4-1 this season and went 5-0 in April 2012. If he wins, he would be the first Cleveland pitcher with five or more wins in multiple Aprils. ... Yost started Tejada at third and Elliot Johnson at second to get more right-handed at-bats against Kazmir. Johnson, however, struck out three times and Tejada twice.