By Jordan Bastian and Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY -- Eric Hosmer belted a three-run homer and Jason Vargas tossed his best outing of the season as the Royals held on for a 5-3 win over the Indians on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals ended a two-game skid and have not lost more than two straight since they dropped four in a row at the end of last August.
"We've got good players, that's what it tells me," manager Ned Yost said. "You take a game like tonight -- we got clutch hitting, solid defense, really, really good pitching and a dynamic bullpen. When you have all that, you limit the losing streaks."
Vargas gave up a two-run homer to Michael Brantley in the first inning. But the lefty only gave up one more hit -- a double by Jason Kipnis in the sixth. Vargas walked two and struck out five over six solid frames.
"He was pretty good," Royals catcher Salvador Perez said of Vargas. "He really attacked the strike zone. He kept his breaking ball down."
Added Vargas, "I thought it went well. ... We made some great plays behind me."
"[Vargas] adds and subtracts and gets you out on your front foot," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "and kind of takes the sting out of the bat. You've really got to be disciplined. He did a very good job of keeping us from [getting much going]."
Cleveland right-hander Danny Salazar was almost as good -- he went seven innings, gave up five hits and four runs while walking none and striking out nine.
Hosmer added an RBI triple in the eighth inning to finish with four RBIs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED New look, fast start: The Indians altered their lineup on Tuesday in an effort to improve against left-handed pitching. Carlos Santana moved from the cleanup spot to the No. 2 hole and drew a walk against Vargas in the first inning. Brantley followed by drilling a 1-0 fastball from the Royals lefty deep to right field for a two-run home run for a quick, 2-0, advantage. More >
"Through the course of his normal at-bats, he's going to get on base," Francona said of Santana. "He's going to walk. That was pretty much, right away, showed what can happen."
The Hoz deja vu bomb: Hosmer clobbered a three-run homer in the first, putting the Royals up, 3-2. What was really interesting is that the distance of the homer -- 417 feet -- was the same distance of the homer he hit off Salazar last week in Cleveland. Oh, and it also went to the same exact part of the park -- left-center field. Hosmer tripled in another run in the eighth. More >
As for the two homers in a week off Salazar, both going the same distance, Hosmer said, "That's crazy. But I'll take another one just like it next time."
Three pitches, three outs: Kipnis led off with an opposite-field double in the sixth, ending an 0-for-14 stretch against Vargas for the Tribe. It was a promising start, but the rally faded fast. In a span of three pitches, Santana, Brantley and Ryan Raburn were retired in order, stranding Kipnis. Following Brantley's first-inning blast, Cleveland went 1-for-18 against Vargas across the remainder of his outing.
"It's a shame, because the inning looked like it had a chance, and then it was quick," Francona said. "But again, when you have a runner on base, if guys get a pitch they like, that's what we're trying to do. Sometimes, you make outs."
Still got speed: Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson helped get a key fourth run when he led off the fifth inning with a ground-ball triple just fair down the right-field line. Dyson, the fastest of the Royals, sailed into third base with a head-first slide. One out later, Alex Gordon pulled a Salazar two-seamer into right field for an RBI single and the Royals led, 4-2.
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Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera gave up an eighth-inning homer to Lonnie Chisenhall -- the first homer he had allowed in 105 1/3 consecutive innings. That's a club record for relievers. Herrera last gave up a jack on July 26, 2013, to Conor Gillaspie. More >
After the game, the Royals as expected optioned right-hander Yohan Pino to Triple-A Omaha and activated closer Greg Holland. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: For the second tilt in this three-game divisional series, the Indians will hand the ball to right-hander Carlos Carrasco on Wednesday at 8:10 p.m. ET. In his last start against Toronto on Friday, Carrasco (3-2, 4.98 ERA) gave up four runs in six innings, but the bulk of the damage came early. He gave up just one hit to the final 11 batters he faced.
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (2-0, 3.45 ERA) takes the mound on Wednesday in a 7:10 p.m. CT start. The Royals expect to have closer Greg Holland back from the disabled list, and center fielder Lorenzo Cain back from serving his two-game suspension for the middle game against the Indians.