CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians are back to their winning ways.
One day after having their American League-record 22-game winning streak snapped by the Kansas City Royals, the Indians slugged and sprinted their way to an 8-4 victory over their AL Central Division foes in front of a capacity crowd at Progressive Field Saturday afternoon.
With the win over the Royals (73-75), the Indians (92-57) reduced their “Magic Number” to clinch a second straight AL Central Division title down to one, and could be back-to-back champions by the end of the night should the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins at Target Field tonight.
Five of the Indians’ first six batters in the lineup had multi-hit performances against the Royals, led by shortstop Francisco Lindor going three for four with two runs scored and two runs batted in, and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who was one for three with two RBI and a run.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead when a sacrifice fly from left fielder Abraham Almonte drove in right fielder Jay Bruce in the bottom of the second inning. Bruce was on base with a lead-off double to the wall in center field and moved over to third on a wild pitch from Royals starter Jason Hammel.
The Royals tied the score at 1-1 on a solo home run from left fielder Alex Gordon in the top of the third inning, but in the bottom half of the frame, the Indians took a 3-1 advantage and never looked back.
Lindor singled to right field to start the rally and moved into scoring position when center fielder Austin Jackson drew a four-pitch walk. Then, first baseman Carlos Santana brought around Lindor with an RBI single to right-center, which Encarnacion followed up with a sacrifice fly to left.
In front by a 3-2 count heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Indians erupted for three runs and staked themselves out to a 7-2 advantage.
Third baseman Yandy Diaz led off with a single to right-center field, and then, moved over to second base on a single to center from Almonte. After catcher Yan Gomes popped out on a bunt attempt and third baseman Giovanny Urshela flied out to right, Lindor doubled to the wall in left field, which drove in both Diaz and Almonte.
Jackson followed with an RBI single to center field and tried for second base on a throw to the plate. However, after fielding the relay, Royals catcher Drew Butera threw the ball into center field, and that error allowed Jackson to score.
Run 'til you have a reason to stop, right?
Austin Jackson pulls off the Little League homer. pic.twitter.com/NpH9kjb0Iy— MLB (@MLB) September 16, 2017
Although the Royals drove Indians starter Carlos Carrasco from the game with two runs in the top of the seventh inning, Encarnacion belted his team-best 35th home run of the season to lead off the bottom of the frame.
Despite his seventh-inning struggles, Carrasco scattered eight hits, four earned runs and two walks, and struck out five hitters over 6.2 innings of work on the way to his 16th victory of the season. With the win, Carrasco pulled into a three-way tie with Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber for the most victories on the team this season.