CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians just keep on winning!
Courtesy of a lead-off double from second baseman Jose Ramirez and RBI double from outfielder Jay Bruce, the Indians fought their way to a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals and extended their winning streak to 22 straight games.
With the win, the Indians (91-56) dropped their "Magic Number" to clinch their second-straight American League Central Division Championship and a return trip to the postseason down to three.
The Royals got their first two runners on base in the top of the second inning, and later, took a 1-0 lead over the Indians when third baseman Mike Moustakas grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
First baseman Eric Hosmer led off the inning with a walk on six pitches and catcher Salvador Perez followed with a single on an 0-1 pitch from Indians starter Josh Tomlin, which moved the runner from first to third.
Then, on the first offering from Tomlin, Moustakas grounded a ball to second baseman Jose Ramirez, who flipped it to shortstop Francisco Lindor for the first out. Lindor relayed a throw down to first for the second out of the inning.
The Indians got a two-out hit from left fielder Lonnie Chisenhall and drew even with the Royals, 1-1, in the bottom of the third inning.
With center fielder Abraham Almonte on second base after a lead-off double to the wall in right field, Chisenhall hit a 1-0 pitch from Kansas City starter Jakub Junis to right and drove in the game-tying run before being thrown out at second base trying to advance from first on a throw to the plate.
A two-out bloop double down the left-field line gave the Royals a 2-1 lead over the Indians in the top of the sixth inning.
Second baseman Whit Merrifield led off the inning with a double to the wall in right field, but was erased at third on a bunt fielder’s choice by Indians catcher Yan Gomes. However, right fielder Melky Cabrera reached on a fielder’s choice, and then, came around to score on a double from Hosmer with two outs.
Hosmer blooped a pitch from Tomlin down the left-field line and Almonte gave chase, but came up just short on his attempted sliding catch. Off at the crack of the bat, that extra second allowed Cabrera to race home safely all the way from first.
After starting the game in center field, Almonte moved over to left when Chisenhall exited for precautionary reasons because of tightness in his right calf, the same muscle that kept him on the disabled list for much of July and all of August.
The Indians looked as though they would be in position to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, but not even a replay review helped.
Ramirez drew a one-out walk, and with Encarnacion at the plate, hustled down the line to steal second base. Ramirez arrived ahead of the ball, but Merrifield continued the backswing with his glove, dislodged Ramirez’s hand from the base and got the out call.
The Indians challenged, but the call was not overturned.
Later in the at-bat, Encarnacion singled to left field and right fielder Jay Bruce followed with a walk, but Santana grounded out to third base for the final out of the inning.
The Indians had two runners in scoring position with just one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, but could not get a clutch hit to push across the tying and/or go-ahead runs.
After outfielder Greg Allen walked on just five pitches and second baseman Jose Ramirez doubled to the left-field corner, the Royals issued an intentional walk to designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, but Kansas City left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter worked his way out of the jam with foul outs from outfielder Jay Bruce and first baseman Carlos Santana.
Despite coming up short in the sixth and eighth innings, the Indians broke through with a key hit in the bottom of the ninth.
Lindor hit an RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera and drove in pinch runner Erik Gonzalez from first base, and that clutch two-base hit knotted the score at 2-2.
Lindor smacked a 1-2 pitch from Herrera high enough off the wall in left field that Alex Gordon could not reach it, and the ricochet allowed Gonzalez to sprint home all the way from first base.
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