By Jordan Bastian and Jeffrey Flanagan
CLEVELAND -- The Royals took advantage of an off night for reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and a rough showing from Cleveland's defense to claim a 6-2 victory over the Tribe on Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Progressive Field.
The Royals came into the series having lost two straight games, and manager Ned Yost was wary of a third against Kluber.
"We got off to such a hot start and you lose two straight and you don't want to go to three against a team that is going to be in it the whole way through," Yost said. "We're facing three very tough arms here, so to get a win against a tough pitcher like Kluber was big for us."
Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas combined for six hits and three RBIs for Kansas City, which turned in enough offense to support an effective effort from lefty Jason Vargas. The Royals' starter issued five walks in his five innings, but sidestepped a handful of jams and limited the Indians to just two runs (on a fifth-inning homer by Mike Aviles).
"I just felt like I was missing by just a little bit off the plate," Vargas said. "We were able to make some defensive plays to get out of innings."
Kluber, who gave up four earned runs in 31 1/3 innings against the Royals in his Cy Young showing last season, was charged with six runs (four earned) in 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander scattered 10 hits, struck out five and walked two, dropping to 0-3 this month. The Indians are now 0-5 in games started by Kluber.
"We haven't been able to all be on the same page yet," Kluber said of Cleveland's slow start. "That's obviously frustrating for everybody. But that being said, we've just got to stay with it. We can't make up for the way we've played thus far in a week. It's got to be a process. We can't let it snowball on us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Mr. Oppo: Moustakas, the Royals' third baseman, continues to show that his opposite-field hitting during Spring Training was no fluke. Moustakas, once again laying a shift to waste, singled to left field in the first before doubling to the left-center-field gap in the third. He then scored on Eric Hosmer's single to left-center. With the Royals leading, 3-2, in the seventh, Moustakas knocked in a big run with yet another single the opposite way. Oh, and he also singled to center in the ninth.
"I'm just very happy for him because of the work he has done," Yost said. "He's a kid with a lot of pride and he's really responded in the [No.] 2 spot." More >
First home homer: The Indians headed into Monday's action with 15 home runs as a team (all on the road). That trend finally changed in the fifth inning, when Aviles ripped a 3-2 pitch from Vargas to the Home Run Porch in left field at Progressive Field. The two-run shot pulled the game into a 2-2 tie.
Error flu: The defensive woes that have cost Cleveland plenty in the past reared their ugly head on Monday. In the second, shortstop Jose Ramirez botched a ground ball in the hole, allowing Salvador Perez to score from second base. In the seventh, Aviles mishandled a sharp grounder at third base, opening the door for Moustakas to score. Cleveland made three errors on the night.
"That certainly didn't help, especially when you're playing a team that likes to run so much and is so aggressive," Indians manager Terry Francona said of the errors. "Right now, the way we're scoring runs, it's not in bunches. We're going to have to pay attention to detail and scrap for everything we get."
Gordo heats up: After a rough start this year, Gordon has begun to heat up. Gordon had two more hits Monday and now has 14 hits in his last 39 at-bats (.359). In that span, he has two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs.
"It was a big one," Yost said of Gordon's double. "Gordy's quietly climbed up to almost .280. He's swinging the bat much better."
"We can't just sit around and lose games until we get hot. We have to find ways to stay in games and win a game that's hard to win." -- Francona
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his punchout of Kansas City's Lorenzo Cain in the sixth inning, Kluber reached 500 career strikeouts (all with Cleveland) in his 80th game. Only Herb Score (1956) reached 500 strikeouts faster in franchise history, doing so in 68 games. Hall of Famer Bob Feller ranks third on that list, notching his 500th strikeout in 1939 in his 83rd career game. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Royals:Jeremy Guthrie, a former first-round pick by the Indians in 2002, takes the hill in a 5:10 p.m. CT start on Tuesday. Guthrie has never had much luck against the Tribe, posting a 6.06 ERA over 13 career appearances.
Indians: Following a bout with food poisoning that caused him to miss his scheduled start on Saturday, right-hander Trevor Bauer will take the mound for the Tribe. The young starter is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 19 innings.