By Jordan Bastian and Jeffrey Flanagan
CLEVELAND -- Second baseman Jason Kipnis launched his first home run of the season and collected four RBIs, helping power the Indians to a 7-5 victory over the Royals on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
On the one-year anniversary of an oblique injury that plagued his offensive production last season, Kipnis belted a three-run homer off Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura in the third inning and added a run-scoring groundout in the sixth. The four RBIs matched a career high for Kipnis, who recently moved into the leadoff spot for the Tribe.
"[Kipnis] took a gorgeous swing," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And we really needed that. Then it was nice, after we give the lead back, we come right back. That's a good way [to win] -- [it] gives you a little extra energy."
Ventura (2-2) -- pitching while appealing a seven-game suspension from Major League Baseball for an incident with the White Sox in his last start -- was charged with five runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings. Beyond Kipnis' homer, Ventura also allowed two runs within Cleveland's three-run sixth inning. Royals reliever Ryan Madson also gave up a solo homer to Roberto Perez (3-for-3 on the day) in the eighth.
"I thought he pitched well, but he just made a couple of pitches that caught too much of the plate," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Power up: Kipnis drilled a 2-0 fastball from Ventura to deep right-center field in the third inning, resulting in a three-run home run that pushed the Indians to a 3-2 lead. The blast was not only the first of the season for the second baseman, but his first since July 31 last season. The blast ended a power outage that lasted 67 games and 265 at-bats.
"It was a nice feeling -- something I haven't felt in a while," Kipnis said. "There's going to be pressure on myself to do well no matter what. But just to finally have it happen, to finally see it, is always refreshing. It's a good thing." More >
Scary moment: In the fifth inning, Salazar uncorked a wild 96-mph fastball that struck Kansas City's Alcides Escobar in the helmet and knocked him to the ground. Escobar was clearly shaken by the errant pitch, but walked off the field with the help of members of Kansas City's medical staff. Escobar was replaced by pinch-runner Christian Colon. The Royals announced that Escobar sustained a left cheek contusion and was removed for precautionary reasons and further evaluation.
"After that I was a little bit nervous," Salazar said. "That's not part of my game. I'm never going to try to intentionally do that. Things like that, they're going to happen sometimes during a game. You just have to breathe a little bit and try to come back." More >
Hoz goes deep: With the Royals trailing, 3-2, Hosmer appeared to break the Indians' spirit once more as he clobbered a two-run homer over the left-center-field wall off Salazar. The blast came after a Lorenzo Cain single to lead the inning off. It was Hosmer's second homer of the season.
"It was OK, we finished .500," Yost said. "If you play .500 on the road, you're all right, especially if you play two good teams in your division."
Double take: Lefty Franklin Morales took over for Ventura with a runner on second and one out in the sixth, and fired a high-and-tight 0-1 pitch that sailed near Michael Bourn's head and forced him to the dirt. Bourn settled back into the batter's box and yanked the next pitch down the right-field line for an RBI double (Cleveland's third two-base hit in a row) to put Kansas City behind, 5-4.
"You just try to get back in the box, keep your stance where it was at and put it out of your memory as soon as you can," Bourn said of the inside fastball. "Especially after seeing that happen to someone early in the game. You never want to see that happen, especially knowing Escobar for a long time. Hopefully everything is OK with him and he can be back soon."
In the third inning, Indians shortstop Jose Ramirez gloved a grounder from Cain, stepped on second and attempted to double up Cain at first base. The runner was deemed safe at first on a bang-bang play, prompting a managerial challenge from Francona. Following a review of two minutes and 17 seconds, the call on the field stood.
Royals: The Royals begin a significant early-season showdown with division rival Detroit, a four-game set that begins Thursday at Kauffman Stadium at 7:10 p.m. CT. Left-hander Danny Duffy takes the mound for the Royals -- he has five quality starts in nine tries against Detroit in his career, though he is only 1-6.
Indians: Lefty TJ House (0-3, 12.60 ERA) has been off to a rough start, but he will aim to begin turning things around on Thursday, when Cleveland opens a four-game home series with the Blue Jays at 7:10 p.m. ET. In his last start, House allowed three runs in three innings of a loss to Detroit on Saturday.