CLEVELAND — Maikel Franco drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning and had an RBI single in the ninth as the Kansas City Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 8-6 Tuesday night to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and Cam Gallagher had an RBI double for the Royals, who had been outscored 51-18 and only held the lead after one inning in losing their first seven games in September.
“You want those rewards, and I don’t know if I’ve wanted one so bad,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said. “Just because they deserve it, the way these guys have been fighting. They’ve been relentless.
“You need days like this to give them that shot of encouragement. Hopefully, this is the start of a whole bunch.”
Adalberto Mondesí led off the eighth with a single off Adam Cimber (0-1) and came around on Franco’s fly to center, putting the Royals up 6-5. Later in the frame, Nicky Lopez was hit by Óliver Pérez’s pitch with the bases loaded, scoring Hunter Dozier.
Franco added a two-out single in the ninth off Adam Plutko to extend Kansas City’s advantage to 8-5. Greg Holland (3-0) worked two perfect innings, striking out three, for the win. Scott Barlow allowed one run in the ninth before earning his second save.
“I feel like we’ve been in a lot of games in the last month,” Holland said. “The work ethic, the patience and all that stuff. The guys haven’t stopped working.”
Carlos Santana, Sandy León and Francisco Lindor each homered for Cleveland, which had won three in a row to move into a tie for first in the American League Central.
Indians rookie Triston McKenzie struck out seven and allowed three hits in five innings, but was lifted after a season-high 92 pitches. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA through four starts.
“If they need me to throw another nine innings tomorrow, I’d do it because I love baseball, but I understand why I’m on a pitch count,” McKenzie said. “My attitude is to do as much as I can with those 90.”
Royals right-hander Jakob Junis gave up a season-high five runs and all three Cleveland homers in 4 1/3 innings, remaining winless in seven starts since Sept. 4, 2019.
Santana hit a two-run homer in the first and León had a solo shot in the second to stake Cleveland to a 3-0 lead, but Merrifield answered with a three-run blast onto the left-field porch in the third.
“Merrifield is a really, really, really good hitter,” McKenzie said. “I made a mistake and he capitalized on it.”
Lindor put the Indians back in front 5-3 in the bottom of the third with a two-run homer, plating César Hernández.
Kansas City tied the score again in the seventh as Lopez reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Matt Reynolds, then came around on Gallagher’s RBI double.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona missed his 28th game because of season-long gastrointestinal issues that required surgery.