Napoli's homer sets tone as Indians clip Royals

Napoli's homer sets tone as Indians clip Royals

KANSAS CITY -- There was no late-inning magic for the Royals this time around.

The Indians, who gave up seven runs in the eighth inning on Monday night in a loss, took a commanding six-run lead through five innings on Tuesday night en route to a 7-3 win at Kauffman Stadium.

"Coming on the heels of last night [a 7-3 loss], it was nice," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We needed a bounceback win."

Mike Napoli blasted a two-run homer in the first, his 21st, and red-hot Carlos Santana delivered a two-run single to help starter Danny Salazar notch his 11th win this season. Francisco Lindor scored three runs, knocked in two, belted his 12th homer in the ninth and made a spectacular defensive play up the middle in the final half-inning.

Lindor's solo dinger to right

"Just real impressed with Lindor," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's just a fantastically talented young man. Both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, left, right. He's just good."

Salazar sat out the All-Star Game due to mild elbow soreness, though it didn't appear to be serious at the time and he proved on Tuesday it wasn't. He gave up just two earned runs through 6 2/3 innings while giving up eight hits. He walked one and struck out seven.

Salazar's strong start

"A lot of people, they were making speculation and things like that," Salazar said. "But, it was nothing serious. It was something really small and we're on top of that. It's nothing really bad and I think we're doing a good job with all the training and stuff to keep myself healthy."

Left-hander Brian Flynn made his first start as a Royal, but couldn't make it out of the third inning. He gave up four hits and three runs through 2 1/3.

The Indians increased their lead in the American League Central to 6 1/2 games over the Tigers and 8 over the Royals.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Santana stays scorching: The switch-hitting Santana has recorded at least one hit in 17 of his last 19 games, batting .342 (25-for-73) in that span. In the fifth inning, he pulled a pitch from Dillon Gee into right field for a two-run single with the bases loaded, giving the Indians a 5-0 lead. Heading into the game, Cleveland was batting just .159 with the bags full.

Santana's two-run single

Mini-rally: The Royals got virtually nothing off Salazar for five innings, then started to get the line moving in the sixth. With one out, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez all singled, pulling the Royals within 6-1. But the slump-ridden Alex Gordon tapped out to first for the second out. A wild pitch plated a second run, but Paulo Orlando broke his bat and popped out to short.

Perez's RBI single in the 6th

"You're facing an All-Star pitcher," Yost said. "He's not an All-Star pitcher for nothing."

Power Nap: Napoli took over the team lead in homers (21) when he yanked a pitch from Flynn deep down the left-field line in the first inning. The two-run shot traveled 415 feet and came with an exit velocity of 108 mph, according to Statcast™, marking the ninth time this season one of Napoli's homers has rocketed off his bat at least that fast. More >

Napoli discusses his 21st homer

Of the home run to Napoli, Flynn said, "Just trying to bust him in there, knowing he's going to be swinging 2-0, trying to get it in and get a soft ground ball. Really that was the pitch that hurt me tonight. Three of the four hits were four-seamers we were trying to get in. Two-seamer was working pretty good. Got some swings and misses and some weak ground balls. Left three four-seamers right down the middle and got hurt on all of them."

Well, golly Gee: The Royals reliever came on for Flynn and gobbled up 5 1/3 innings of decent relief, which saved manager Ned Yost's bullpen. Gee came into the game with the Royals down, 3-0, and runners on first and third with one out. But Gee got a big strikeout of Napoli and then a groundout from Santana. Gee gave up three runs in the fifth, but matched his season high in innings pitched.

"Obviously I'd like to hold them to no runs," Gee said. "But I think I can take a lot of good things out of this. I tried to save the bullpen and I thought I did that."

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Salazar notched the 500th strikeout of his career when he fanned Perez in the second inning. That made Salazar the second-fastest to 500 in Indians history, having reached the milestone in 78 games. Herb Score reached 500 in 1956 in his 68th career game. Corey Kluber ranks third on that list (80 games).

Salazar's 500th career strikeout

WHAT'S NEXT
Indians: Cleveland lined up its rotation so the Big Three (Kluber, Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) faced the Royals this week. In Wednesday's finale at Kauffman Stadium, Carrasco (6-3, 2.49 ERA) will toe the rubber at 2:15 p.m. ET. The big righty beat the Twins with a quality start on Friday and has a 1.76 ERA in his last seven turns.

Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy (6-7, 3.86) will take the mound in the series finale against the Indians on Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. CT. Kennedy gave up a leadoff homer to Detroit's Ian Kinsler in his last start, then shut out the Tigers over the next 5 1/3 innings, though a 4-2 loss.

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Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.