Sunday's win over KC improves Cleveland to 18-7 vs. division foes
By Shane Jackson
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona believes the last game is the hardest when going for a sweep. Fortunately for Francona, he is able to call on his ace Corey Kluber for this specific reason.
Kluber spun six scoreless innings and Cleveland belted four home runs at Progressive Field in a 7-0 win over Kansas City to complete the four-game sweep to conclude a 10-game homestand. It marked the Indians first four-game sweep over the Royals since August of 2006.
"The last game is the hardest game to win and we played really well," Francona said. "Now we will turn the page real quick because we are going to play a real good Seattle team. But the more you win, the more fun and the more interesting the next game gets."
In addition, Sunday's shutout gave the Tribe a 1 1/2-game lead atop of the American League Central. It is Cleveland's largest division lead since holding a 1 1/2-game lead over Detroit on May 22, 2013.
The Indians had to wait a little longer than usual to reach that point, though. For three hours and 10 minutes in the middle of the sixth inning, many of the Indians players sat in the clubhouse during a rain delay. The rain merely delaying the inevitable -- a fifth consecutive Indians victory.
"Obviously, we had a really good series," Kluber said. "Any four-game sweep is big. In your division is obviously nice too because those are the teams you're going to play most often. We played a really good series and hopefully we can keep that rolling out West."
The Indians sit atop the division thanks in large part to their success against the defending champs. Cleveland has won six of its seven meetings (all at Progressive Field) against Kansas City, and has outscored its division foe, 37-18, in the seven games. They will meet again next week, when the Indians go to Kansas City for a three-game series to complete a 10-game road trip.
"I mean, from the way we started our homestand to how we finished, it's nice," Mike Napoli said. "Especially doing it against Kansas City, they were ahead of us. Being able to have a good series. Just wanted to win the series, but we put ourselves in position to sweep. We had a good day today. It's definitely a good feeling going on a long trip."
The Royals are not the only divisional opponent that the Indians have bested through the early part of the season. With a little more than one-third of of the season completed, Cleveland is 18-7 against AL Central foes. As it happens, only the last-place Twins (4-2 against Cleveland) have given the Tribe trouble to this point.
"We don't want to be anywhere else [other than first place]," Napoli said. "But it doesn't mean anything right now. It's the place you want to be, but we need to continue playing good ball as a team and things should take care of itself. We're going to try to continue that and go from there."
Though there is still plenty of baseball left, the Tribe's divisional success is an improvement from last year. Cleveland went 32-43 with a minus-15 run differential in 2015 against the AL Central, finishing 13 1/2 games back.
Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.