CLEVELAND -- The Indians overtook the Royals for first place in the American League Central on Saturday night with a convincing 7-1 victory at Progressive Field. Josh Tomlin led the way with a strong start and the Tribe offense backed him up with three home runs.
"It feels good, but we have a long way to go," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "We have a lot of work to do. But, the guys are doing good. We're playing the game the right way. We're pushing each other, moving runners, running the bases great. Tomlin with another great game tonight. Overall, the guys have done a great job and I'm blessed to be a part of it."
Salvador Perez had a pair of hits in his return to the lineup for Kansas City, but that was the only bright spot in a loss that helped Cleveland move a half-game ahead in the division standings. On the hook for the loss was righty Ian Kennedy, who surrendered two of the Tribe's long balls on the evening. More >
Indians first baseman Mike Napoli continued his hot homestand (five home runs and 11 RBIs in nine games) with a home run in the sixth, marking his 13th shot of the season. Rookie Tyler Naquin followed suit with a homer in the same inning, giving the young outfielder two home runs in as many games.
Lindor added a two-run homer, his fifth, in the seventh off Royals reliever Scott Alexander.
Tomlin improved to 8-1 on the season after limiting Kansas City to one run on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander struck out four, walked one and held the Royals off the board until the seventh. In that inning, Kendrys Morales doubled and later scored on a single by Reymond Fuentes.
"He's really good, and what he does is he's really good at moving your eye level," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Tomlin. "He pitches very effectively with his fastball, up and down."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Power up: Napoli and Naquin each went deep in the sixth inning to give Tomlin more than the 1-0 cushion he had for the first five frames. Napoli sent a hanging knuckle-curve from Kennedy over the 19-foot wall in left for a one-out solo shot. Later, Naquin used an easy swing to belt a 1-1 changeup to deep center for a two-run blast. More >
Better Call Sal: After missing six games with a left quad contusion, Perez wasted little time in getting his first hit. In the top of the second inning, he singled to left field, getting his first hit since May 27. He followed that up with a double in the fourth inning and would finish the day 2-for-4.
"I felt great today," Perez said.
Perez was originally slated for a day off tomorrow, but after the game, Yost said he may end up playing tomorrow. He said they'd look at how Perez felt in the morning before making the final decision.
Lindor-to-Ramirez: Lindor has dazzled with his defense all season, but he teamed with third baseman Jose Ramirez for a jaw-dropping gem in the ninth. Moralez chopped a pitch to the right of second base, where Lindor made a diving stop while in the shift. From the ground, the shortstop flipped the ball to Ramirez, who fired to first baseman Carlos Santana to complete an incredible out.
"Ramirez, before that play happened, told me, 'If I catch the ball, I'm going to give it to you,'" Lindor said. "I said, 'All right, if I catch it, I'm going to give it to you.' As soon as it was hit, I knew I was going to give it to him." More >
Fuentes stays hot: After hitting 3-for-4 in the series opener against the Indians, Fuentes knocked in the first run of the game for Kansas City with an RBI single in the top of the seventh. That single also gave Fuentes his fourth multi-hit game of the year in eight appearances with the club.
"He's always been a good kid with the bat," Yost said. "He won a batting title this year in winter ball."
"It's funny, because you see that we've got a one-run lead and you know Salvador Perez is coming up. He was going to play tonight [even] if he was in a wheelchair. And, finally, J.T. struck him out. I don't know if [Perez] was just tired." -- Indians manager Terry Francona
"That's unbelievable. That's instincts. That's not something you learn or you teach or anything like that. It's just the instincts that he has in the game. It's unreal. Josey being right there ready for it is pretty instinctual, too. I enjoy watching stuff like that." --Tomlin, on Lindor's diving stop in the ninth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
When Whit Merrifield stole second base in the first inning, it marked his third theft of the season, but it was a rare heist with Tomlin on the mound. It marked the first successful steal attempt against Tomlin since June 22, 2014, when Ian Kinsler swiped a base off the righty. In fact, Kinsler's was the lone steal off Tomlin across the 2013-16 seasons (teams only attempted four total), entering Saturday.
With a pair of doubles and a homer, Lindor became the first Indians batter to have at least three extra-base hits in a game this season.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Chris Young (2-5, 5.94 ERA) will take the mound for the series finale against the Tribe at 12:10 p.m. CT on Sunday at Progressive Field. Young will be making his first start since going on the DL earlier this month. He's made two relief appearances since then, allowing two hits and no runs through four innings.
Indians: Cleveland will counter with right-hander Corey Kluber (4-6, 4.15 ERA) to conclude the four-game set against Kansas City. Last time out, Kluber allowed a season-high six runs on eight hits over seven innings against Texas. He is 5-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 14 career starts against the Royals.