By Jeffrey Flanagan and Jordan Bastian
KANSAS CITY -- Catcher Salvador Perez hammered a three-run homer to straightaway center field, breaking open a tight game, as the Royals completed a three-game sweep of the Indians at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday with a 9-4 victory.
The sweep enabled the Royals, who recently were swept in four games in Cleveland, to vault into a tie with the Indians atop the American League Central. The Royals now have won nine straight at home.
"I'm just trying to do my job," Perez said. "I'm trying to compete. I got a fastball -- actually it was a good pitch -- but I hit it hard. I thought it was out, but you know, we play at The K, so you never know."
Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy got the win, his fifth, as he lasted 6 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and four runs. He struck out six.
"I made a couple of mistakes," Kennedy said. "But it was great they put big runs on the board for me. As the game wore on, I just tried to attack the zone more. Fastball command was pretty good." More >
Kluber started for the Indians and after a tough start -- he gave up two quick runs in the first -- he dominated until the fifth, at one point striking out five of six hitters and retiring nine straight. His line wasn't pretty, thanks to some shabby defense -- five innings, nine hits, eight earned runs, one walk and seven strikeouts.
"We really made it hard on him," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He was settling down and he was missing some bats. We just made it so hard. Between making some errors, not making some plays, it's kind of hard. He was fighting for everything, and we were making it harder on him. That's tough."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Stay hot, Sal: Perez has been on a tear of late. He now has a seven-game hitting streak after his three-run homer, and he is 13-for-28 in that stretch. He also has four homers in his last six games. Over a longer stretch he is 25-for-61.
"Salvy is just hitting the cover off the ball right now," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You don't see him driving balls the other way. But today he drove a home run over the center-field wall, which is quite a blow."
Martinez's miscue: With two outs and Kansas City holding a 3-2 lead in the fifth, Eric Hosmer sent a pitch sharply to the left side. Third baseman Martinez made a slick sliding grab, but his throw to first baseman Mike Napoli was of the mark. Hosmer was credited with an infield single on a play that could have easily been deemed an error. Two batters later, Perez delivered his three-run home run to give the Royals a commanding lead.
"There were a couple difficult plays right there that we didn't make," Martinez said. "This team [the Royals], when you don't make plays like that, they're coming. We've got to be sure we make those plays right there." More >
Get it started: Since Whit Merrifield was moved into the starting spot last weekend, he has four hits in six games leading off the first inning. That's exactly what manager Ned Yost was looking for when he made the switch. Merrifield singled off Kluber to get things going in the first. He scored on Hosmer's double, and Hosmer scored on a double by Lorenzo Cain.
Davis' dinger: For a brief moment, Cleveland appeared to have a bit of momentum. In the fifth inning, Davis launched a changeup from Kennedy out to left-center field with an exit velocity of 102 mph, per Statcast™. The two-run home run (Davis' seventh blast of the year) pulled the game into a short-lived, 2-2, deadlock.
"The fans here just give us energy. It's always been like that for us." -- Yost, on the Royals' nine-game win streak at Kauffman Stadium
"I don't think it's going to be a 95-win team that's going to come out of here. I think everyone's beating up on each other enough -- the top four teams. Ninety. Ninety-two. It's going to be coming down to the end, because there's good teams here. It's tough. Everyone's playing each other tough." -- Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, on the AL Central race
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Following a team off-day on Thursday, the Indians will host the White Sox in a three-game weekend series, beginning at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (4-2, 3.69 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe, opposite Chicago lefty Jose Quintana (5-7, 2.66 ERA).
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (2-1, 2.94 ERA) gets the start for the opener of a four-game series with the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. CT. Duffy was sensational last Saturday, throwing six scoreless innings and striking out 10.