By Jordan Bastian and Jeffrey Flanagan
KANSAS CITY -- While the Royals were on the eve of their season finale, Indians starter Trevor Bauer took the mound at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday knowing it would not be his final outing this year. Bauer was making his final tuneup start in preparation for the American League Division Series.
In a 6-3 win for the Indians, Bauer provided Cleveland with a quality start, allowing three runs over six innings with nine strikeouts. The next time Bauer starts will be against the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday. Corey Kluber will start Game 2 on Friday.
"I think he relishes what's ahead of him," manager Terry Francona said of Bauer. "He's going to go up against a good lineup, but I think he'll be OK."
With the win, and Boston's loss to Toronto, Cleveland pulled a half-game ahead to begin the ALDS at home. If the Indians finish ahead of the Red Sox through Sunday's action, the Tribe will need to play a makeup game on Monday in Detroit to determine whether the ALDS begins in Cleveland or Boston on Thursday. In the event of an even record, the Red Sox own the tiebreaker.
Right-hander Edinson Volquez, a pending free agent, might have pitched his last game in a Royals uniform. He logged five innings, allowing three runs on five hits and ending with five strikeouts against four walks. Tyler Naquin (RBI single) and Lonnie Chisenhall (sacrifice fly) each came through against the righty. Chisenhall also tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the third inning.
"I hope it's not [my last game with Royals]," Volquez said. "We'll just have to see, after the World Series, what happens. You never know."
"I thought, again, I threw the ball better than the results show," Bauer said. "I guess at some point, things will start going my way and the results will match how I pitch. Hopefully, that's the next outing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Running to victory: The Indians entered Saturday with an AL-leading 17.2 Baserunning rating, according to Fangraphs. The Tribe's skills on the bases were on display again in the win over the Royals. Cleveland stole two bases, took an extra base three times and scored a run on a wild pitch. Rajai Davis ignited a three-run eighth after drawing a walk. The outfielder stole second for his 43rd theft of the year, and then scored from second on a fielding gaffe by Merrifield at second base.
"I should make that play about every time," Merrifield said. "But he hit it pretty hard and hooked it. I took a step to my right, and I thought it was going there and then it hooked back to my left. I kind of got my feet tangled."
Added Royals manager Ned Yost, "The ball was hit hard. But it's a play he normally makes."
Your new cleanup hitter:With catcher Salvador Perez and first baseman Eric Hosmer not in the lineup, Orlando hit cleanup. And Orlando, who had just 42 RBIs this season, got No. 43 in the sixth inning. After Kendrys Morales doubled to lead off the inning, Orlando blasted a liner off the bullpen fence in left field, scoring Morales. That brought the Royals within one. Orlando then scored on Escobar's single.
Walk this way: The Indians drew a leadoff walk in the first, second and fifth innings against Volquez, generating a run in two of those situations. After Coco Crisp opened with a free pass in the second, he stole second and then scored on a single by Naquin. Francisco Lindor walked to open the fifth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chisenhall. Davis' leadoff walk in the eighth also turned into a run for the Tribe.
The Royals walked eight batters.
"Walks just killed us," Yost said. "And four of them scored. That was the difference."
Back to the bullpen: Rookie righty Mike Clevinger has served as the Tribe's fourth starter, but Cleveland only needs three rotation arms for the ALDS. With that in mind, Clevinger transitioned back to the bullpen following his last start. With the score knotted at 3, he was called upon with one out and runners on first and second in the seventh. Clevinger induced a fielder's-choice groundout against Morales and then struck out Orlando to escape unscathed.
"That's exactly why we put him in. We wanted to see," Francona said. "Just because a guy gives up runs, maybe as a starter, doesn't mean [he can't succeed as a reliever]. I don't think you put him in the penalty box, if you think he can help you somewhere. That's exactly why we pitched him, and he did a really good job."
When they tell me when to pitch, I go out there and I pitch. So, Game 1 or Game 2 or Game 3, whatever. They're all important now." -- Bauer, on getting the Game 1 nod
"Raj can change the game. That's a situation where they know he's running, but he still has the ability." -- Francona, on Davis stealing second to jump-start Cleveland's rally in the eighth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Carlos Santana hit a double and a triple in each of Friday and Saturday's games for the Indians. He became the first Indians hitter to have a double and triple in consecutive games since July 19-21, 1936, when Odell Hale turned the trick. That rare feat has been done only four times in franchise history. Incredibly, Roy Weatherly did it from July 17-18, 1936, in the two games before Hale's streak. Hale also doubled and tripled on May 23-25, 1934.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Indians rookie Erik Gonzalez reached base with a two-out single off Royals reliever Brooks Pounders in the ninth, and then the young infielder attempted to steal second. Gonzalez was called out by second-base umpire Ed Hickox on a bang-bang play, but the Indians challenged the ruling. After a replay review, the ruling stood as called, ending the top of the ninth.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Righty Josh Tomlin (12-9, 4.48 ERA) is scheduled to start in Sunday's 3:15 p.m. ET contest against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. It remains undetermined if it will mark the season finale for Cleveland, which may play Detroit on Monday if the makeup game has postseason implications. Tomlin posted a 1.40 ERA in September after having an 11.48 ERA in a tough August.
Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy (11-10, 3.69 ERA) will pitch the final game of the season for the Royals on Sunday at 2:15 p.m. CT. Kennedy is 2-3 with a 5.76 ERA vs.Cleveland this season.