Leading 4-2 heading to the seventh, there was not much room to breathe easy, so the Indians hoped to add to their lead heading into the last three innings.
Michael Brantley, who had ignited the rally in the sixth inning with the Tribe’s first hit, led off the seventh with a walk off of Luke Hochevar, who was still in the game for the Royals. Matt LaPorta followed with another walk, setting the Indians up with men on first and second and nobody down.
That was all for Hochevar, who was relieved by Tim Collins — the loser on Monday night — with Jack Hannahan coming to the plate.
After falling behind in the count 1-2, Hannahan came through with a double to right, and suddenly the Indians, who had looked dead in the water two innings earlier, led 6-2, still with nobody down in the seventh.
Grady Sizemore followed with a walk, putting two on again for Asdrubal Cabrera, who did his job, laying down a sacrifice bunt to put two men in scoring position. Shin-Soo Choo failed to take advantage, through, grounding out to first for the second out, and Carlos Santana walked, loading the bases for Travis Hafner and with a chance to really put this game almost out of reach.
After driving in a run in the fifth with a double, Hafner was unable to come through this time, as Collins caught him looking at strike three, but the Indians enjoyed a nice four-run lead heading to the seventh-inning stretch.
Justin Masterson tired in the seventh, walking Chris Getz and Melky Cabrera, and that nice lead suddenly looked to be in jeopardy. Rafael Perez came on for the Tribe.
Perez got Alex Gordon to fly out to left-center for the first out, and then Vinnie Pestano was called on to face Billy Butler. Butler flied deep to right for the second out, with Getz moving to third, but then Jeff Francoeur walked, and the bases were loaded for Mike Aviles.
Pestano completed a brilliant inning for the Indians’ relievers, striking out Aviles looking, and the lead remained at four.
Masterson’s line for the night, after a 32-pitch, two-run first inning? Six innings, six hits, five walks but only two runs allowed with three strikeouts. That is called battling. Masterson’s ERA after his night’s work stands at 1.71.
Orlando Cabrera led off the eighth with a hit off of Kanekoa Texeira, and with two outs, Jack Hannahan became the first Indian with two hits on the night with a single, but Grady Sizemore flied out deep to center, ending the inning with no damage from Cleveland.
Joe Smith came on for the Tribe in the home eighth and blew the Royals away one-two-three, with the final two outs coming on swinging strikeouts. Oh, it is good to have Smith (the winning pitcher on Monday night) back.
Asdrubal Cabrera singled off of Texeira leading off the Tribe’s ninth, and moved to second on a wild pitch. Shin-Soo Choo grounded out, with Cabrera going to third. Carlos Santana then came through with a single to center, giving the Indians a 7-2 lead. Travis Hafner followed with a single, moving Santana to third, with Hafner taking second on an error by right-fielder Francoeur. Orlando Cabrera grounded out for out number two (failing to get the runner in from third never feels good, even with a healthy ninth-inning lead), and after Brantley was intentionally walked, loading the bases, LaPorta popped out to end the inning with just the one run scoring.
But the Indians, who had not had even one base-runner through five innings, ended up with eleven hits. The only Tribesman who did not get at least one hit was Grady Sizemore, who went 0-for-4. Hannahan, Hafner and Asdrubal Cabrera each collected two hits for The Good Guys.
All in all a nice job of waking up when it was needed for Cleveland’s offense.
Tony Sipp came on in the bottom of the ninth and immediately did the one thing you don’t want to do — walked the lead-off hitter, Chris Getz. Melky Cabrera followed with an RBI double — the first run allowed by Sipp this year — but Sipp got Alex Gordon to ground out, Cabrera moving to third. Billy Butler worked the count full before popping out to short for the second out, and then…
Jeff Francoeur, down to his last strike, homered to left, and suddenly it was a 7-5 game, making that run in the top of the inning look good (and also showing why, even with a five-run lead, it would have been handy to get that runner in from third with less than two outs).
Chris Perez came on in what was now a save situation, and — finally — the Royals were put away when Mike Aviles grounded out to first.
A nervous ninth, but the Indians prevailed and are now 13-5, and once again lead Kansas City by two games.
Justin Masterson gets the win, moving to 4-0 on the season, while the loss goes to Luke Hochevar (2-2). Chris Perez gets his sixth save, facing -- and retiring -- one batter.
The Tribe will try to make it three-of-four in this series and to increase their lead to three games tomorrow night when Josh Tomlin goes for his fourth win of the season.