By Jeffrey Flanagan and Jordan Bastian
KANSAS CITY -- Jose Ramirez finished a homer shy of the cycle and scored three runs, and the Indians' bullpen shut down the Royals over the final 5 1/3 innings to lock down a 9-5 victory on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The Tribe, which clinched a series win, went over .500 for the first time since April 9 after a 2-1 start to the season and had reached .500 six times over the previous 13 games. The Indians stayed three games back of the Astros for the second American League Wild Card spot.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel to good to finally get there," Indians manager Terry Francona said of moving over the break-even mark. "Now, we don't have a whole lot of [time to enjoy it]. It needs to be a jumping-off point and not a goal, but it's been a lot of hard work from those guys that has gone into getting us back to trying to be respectable, and being in this race. Yeah, it is good, but we need to go."
The Royals, meanwhile, are now tied with the Blue Jays for the AL's best record and home-field advantage throughout the postseason -- but the Blue Jays hold the tiebreaker based on a 4-3 edge in the season series.
"I got a lot of confidence in this group," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We'll just worry about ourselves."
Both starters were well off their games. Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up seven hits and five runs. Royals righty Kris Medlen gave up nine hits and six runs over 3 2/3 innings.
"I just never got comfortable on the mound," Medlen said. "I don't know what it was. It was a frustrating night."
Following Tomlin's exit, the bullpen held Kansas City to an 0-for-15 showing over 5 1/3 innings.
"That was definitely big," Indians reliever Jeff Manship said. "The bullpen came in and we all did our jobs, especially against this great team. It's a situation where we've got to keep winning games."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Finding holes: A pair of tough plays in the field helped the Tribe jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Francisco Lindor pulled a sharp grounder that shot through the legs of first baseman Eric Hosmer for a double, and Carlos Santana followed with a sinking liner that skipped under the glove of right fielder Alex Rios for a two-run triple.
Escobar robs Ramirez: Before Cleveland's opening outburst, Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar provided a highlight-reel play in the field. Ramirez lofted a pitch towards shallow left field, but Escobar chased it down and made an over-the-shoulder, sliding grab to elicit rousing cheers from the Royals' faithful. More >
Slumping Franklin: After Jeremy Guthrie relieved Medlen and seemed to restore some order by striking out three of four hitters, he walked the leadoff man in the sixth. After a sacrifice bunt, manager Ned Yost opted to match lefties by bringing in Franklin Morales to face Jason Kipnis. Problem is, Morales has been struggling, and Saturday was no different. Morales gave up an RBI single to Kipnis and another single to Ramirez before Yost pulled his reliever. Both of his runners scored, and Morales now sports a 24.30 ERA and a 5.10 WHIP in his last seven outings.
"He's getting long in his mechanics and real herky-jerky," Yost said. "[Pitching coach] Dave [Eiland] thinks he's got an answer and we'll see if he can get to it tomorrow."
No way, Jose: Ramirez was in the middle of a handful of Cleveland's rallies on Saturday. He tripled and scored in a two-run third inning (in which Yan Gomes also belted a homer) and then chipped in an RBI double and a run in a two-run fourth. In a three-run push to pull away in the sixth, Ramirez added another single. As has been a humorous trend all year, the speedy infielder lost his helmet on the basepaths multiple times. More >
"It just will not stay on," Francona said with a laugh. "That's all right. When it falls off, that means good things are happening."
Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall singled in the third inning, but he was slow up the first-base line and lifted for pinch-runner Jerry Sands upon reaching safely. The club indicated that Chisenhall was removed for precautionary reasons due to hamstring cramping.
"After batting practice, his legs were starting to cramp," Francona said. "I talked to him before his at-bat and I said, 'Let me know [how it feels] after you run to first.' It never fails. He hits one where he has to bust it up the line, and you could tell it was bothering him. So, we got him out of there and got him [hydrated]. Hopefully, he'll get back in there tomorrow."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With two shutout innings of relief, Manship lowered his ERA to 0.97 through 30 appearances (37 innings). That represents the lowest ERA in the Majors among relievers with at least 30 innings. Kansas City's Wade Davis ranks second with a 0.99 ERA, though he has logged 65 outings (63 2/3 innings).
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Danny Salazar (13-9, 3.51 ERA) will get the ball on Sunday at 2:10 p.m. ET for the finale of this three-game set at Kauffman Stadium. Salazar has had mixed results against the Royals, going 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA in three starts.
Royals: Right-hander Chris Young (10-6, 3.29) makes his return to the rotation on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT for the series finale. Young was in the rotation from May 10-July 28, going 7-6 with a 3.49 ERA.