KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The perfect tonic for a scuffling ballclub is apparently the reigning Cy Young winner.
After struggling to score runs for more than a week, the Kansas City Royals managed to wake up the bats against Corey Kluber on Wednesday night, cruising to a 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians to even their three-game series.
“We just try to attack him early,” said the Royals’ Eric Hosmer, who had one of their three straight RBI doubles during a three-run third inning. “He’s a guy you can’t get behind because his off-speed stuff is so devastating.”
Mike Moustakas drove in a run off Kluber (3-6) in the first inning, and Lorenzo Cain and Kendrys Morales added RBI doubles along with Hosmer to give the Royals the lead.
Jason Vargas (4-2) made it stand up in his second start back from the disabled list. The left-hander used a pair of double plays to wiggle out of jams, and limited the streaking Indians to two runs on eight hits while striking out three without a walk.
Greg Holland pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save.
“We started the game off great. We just had some great at-bats,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, whose team had scored three runs or fewer in seven of their last eight games. “They were aggressive and when they were getting their pitch, they weren’t missing.”
Kluber dropped to 0-3 against the Royals this season.
“It was just a matter in that one inning, I didn’t execute pitches,” Kluber said. “In the third inning, I just didn’t quite get balls to where they needed to be and left them too far over the plate and they took advantage of them.”
The Indians, who had won three straight, pulled ahead 2-1 when Brandon Moss doubled home a run in the second inning and Mike Aviles added an RBI single in the third.
That’s when Kansas City’s bats suddenly caught fire. The same bunch of hitters who managed just three runs or fewer in seven of their last eight games put up that many in one inning.
Alcides Escobar started things off in the bottom of the third with a single, and Moustakas added another single. Then, the trio of doubles pushed Kansas City into the lead, earning Kluber a visit from Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
Kluber walked Alex Gordon before finally escaping the inning, but the damage was done. The sudden onslaught came after Kluber had surrendered five runs total in his last four starts.
Kluber wound up allowing nine hits over eight innings. He struck out nine, giving him 105 Ks on the season — the quickest Indians pitcher to eclipse 100 since Sam McDowell in 1970.
Vargas didn’t have the same kind of overpowering stuff, but the veteran pitched to contact and allowed one of the game’s best defenses to help him out.
After allowing three hits to his first four batters in the third, Vargas got Ryan Raburn to ground into an inning-ending double play. Then in the fifth, Vargas pitched around a rare error by center fielder Lorenzo Cain by getting Mike Aviles to ground into a double play.
Ryan Madson also wiggled out of trouble in the seventh before the rest of the Kansas City bullpen, which had been starting to show some cracks, nailed down the victory.
“Slumps are funny,” Yost said. “You can get into one and then bang, just when you think you’ll never get it out of it, you get out.”