By Jordan Bastian and Jeffrey Flanagan
CLEVELAND -- Carlos Carrasco turned in a strong performance, Lonnie Chisenhall drove in three runs and the Indians continued to stay in the American League Wild Card hunt with an 8-3 victory over the Royals on Monday night at Progressive Field.
The win was the 13th win the last 18 games for Cleveland, which remained 4 1/2 games behind the Rangers for the second Wild Card spot.
"We're close," Carrasco said. "There's only 20 games left. I think we can make it."
Kansas City, on the other hand, has dropped eight of 10 and has a magic number of 11, while holding a two-game lead over the idle Blue Jays for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
In his second start following a stint on the disabled list due to a right shoulder issue, Carrasco limited the Royals to one run on five hits in six innings, ending with nine strikeouts en route to his 13th win. Alex Gordon belted a leadoff homer off Carrasco in the first inning, but the starter held Kansas City in check from there.
Royals manager Ned Yost said of Carrasco, "He always has good stuff. He has a really good slider, good fastball. Looked like we would get off to a really great start. Gordon, first-pitch homer. And then, he just settled in. He's tough."
The Royals rallied for two runs in the seventh, but Chisenhall (RBI single) and Yan Gomes (two-run double) helped the Indians pull away with a three-run outburst off reliever Kelvin Herrera in the home half of the inning.
"They have the best bullpen in baseball," Chisenhall said. "They usually play six-inning games with Herrera and Wade [Davis] and Greg [Holland] out there. So it's nice to be able to put a few runs up and stretch the lead out."
Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez (13-8) was charged with four runs on seven hits in five innings, which included a leadoff homer by the Tribe's Jason Kipnis in the first. Rookie third baseman Giovanny Urshela also homered off Volquez, belting a solo shot in the fourth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED First thing's first: Gordon's first-inning blast gave him three first-pitch, leadoff home runs against the Indians, dating to 2012. Cleveland has only given up four first-pitch homers to open a game since 2010. Among active players, only Jimmy Rollins and Ichiro Suzuki (nine apiece) have more first-pitch, game-opening homers than Gordon (seven).
Not to be outdone: After Gordon's homer gave the Royals a 1-0 lead, Kipnis followed with a leadoff shot of his own in the bottom of the first. The homer was Kipnis' eighth of the season and it was the second time this year that he traded leadoff blasts in the first inning. The All-Star second baseman also did so on May 1 against the Blue Jays. More >
"Kip comes right back," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It's always better to play with the game tied. I can't tell you how many times I'll be in the dugout and say to [bench coach Brad Mills], 'I'd feel much better if this game was tied.' I know three hours later it may not make that big a difference, it's just a better feeling."
Lonnie delivers: After Volquez walked a pair in the third inning, Chisenhall pulled a pitch into the right-field corner for an RBI double to push the Tribe in front, 2-1. Cleveland's right fielder came through again in the fifth with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly, and later added a run-scoring single in the three-run seventh.
Short game: The Royals brought out their short game to creep back within 4-3 in the seventh. With runners on second and third and one out, Gordon hit a slow chopper down the third-base line and Urshela couldn't make an accurate throw to first. Gordon was credited with a base hit and an RBI. Not to be outdone, Ben Zobrist followed with a chopper in virtually the same spot. This time, Urshela didn't bother to make a throw to first and another run scored. But then Lorenzo Cain flied out to center, ending the threat.
"I'm not worried about our offense," Yost said. "We're swinging the bats well, especially at the top of the order."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
While Kipnis and Toronto's Josh Donaldson traded first-inning leadoff homers on May 1, Kansas City hadn't been a part of that unique feat since Aug. 17, 2006. In that game nine seasons ago, David DeJesus of the Royals and Pablo Ozuna of the White Sox each led off with a homer.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the eighth inning, Indians rookie Francisco Lindor sent a pitch from Franklin Morales off the top of the right-field wall for a run-scoring triple. A 50-second crew chief review confirmed the initial ruling. The ball struck the yellow line at the top of the wall before bouncing back into right field.
"I think we all [thought it was a homer], including Frankie," Francona said. "Everybody was trying to get his attention to run, because you don't know. And he kind of didn't know what to do. I guess maybe you learn to just keep going."
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Kris Medlen (3-1, 4.58 ERA) will start the second of this four-game road set on Tuesday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Medlen is coming off his best start of the season, including five no-hit innings before allowing two runs on three hits in the sixth in a no-decision against the Twins.
Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin (5-1, 2.85) will get the ball on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET against the Royals at Progressive Field. Tomlin has won each of his past five starts, holding opposing batters to a .175 average in that span. The craft righty has 38 strikeouts compared to only three walks in 41 innings.