Shelley Duncan homered twice and drove in five runs, Jeanmar Gomez picked up his second straight win, and Chris Perez converted an unexpected save opportunity, as the Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 9-6 this afternoon to win the series two-games-to-one and, more importantly, stay no worse than 6.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers in advance of a three-game series with Detroit beginning on Monday afternoon at Progressive Field.
Duncan hit a three-run blast in the sixth inning, when the Indians expanded their lead to 7-1, and added a two-run jack in the eighth, after Kansas City had crept to within four at 7-3.
Then, in the ninth inning, Frank Herrmann, in a strictly mop-up role, failed to seal the deal, forcing Chris Perez to come on and retire the final two hitters of the game on pop-ups to nail down his 32nd save of the season.
Gomez worked into the sixth inning to even his record at 2-2. Jeanmar gave up just one run on six hits, He was relieved in the sixth by Rafael Perez, but when Raffy got into trouble in the seventh, Tony Sipp had to come on to close the inning before Joe Smith pitched a scoreless eighth.
Jeff Francis fell to 5-15 on the year, allowing four runs in five innings, while Duncan teed off both times against Royals’ reliever Jesse Chavez to reach six homers on the season.
Cleveland banged out 13 hits, and went 5-of-13 with men in scoring position, to bounce back nicely from a lackluster effort on Saturday night. Lou Marson collected three hits, while Duncan, Jason Donald and Jack Hannahan each provided two.
Hannahan had to leave the game with soreness in his leg after his second hit of the afternoon in the top of the third.
The Tribe scored in the first inning when Donald singled with two outs and the bases loaded, scoring Kosuke Fukudome, but Carlos Santana was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Cleveland scored three more in the second when Hannahan led off with a double and moved to third on a single from Marson. Jerad Head then doubled for his first career RBI to make it 2-0. After the next two hitters were retired, Asdrubal Cabrera pounded out the third double of the inning, scoring Marson and Head and increasing the advantage to 4-0.
Duncan then took over, driving in the final five runs of the game for The Good Guys.
The Tribe totaled seven extra-base hits, adding five doubles to the two homers from Duncan. Cabrera returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game, coming back strong after fouling a pitch off of his knee on Friday night.
With the win the Indians reached 70 wins for the first time since 2008. Not bad for a team that has just been ravaged by injury in 2011.
Now the Tigers come to town, but not before they play the final game of a series with the White Sox in Detroit on Sunday night. Should Chicago bounce back from a brutal loss on Saturday and win tonight, Cleveland would be within 5.5 games heading into action tomorrow afternoon.