By Jeffrey Flanagan and Robert Falkoff
KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Jason Hammel bounced back from two rough starts and gave up three hits and one run through six innings, and Eric Hosmer blasted a go-ahead two-run homer for the Royals in a 3-1 win over the Indians on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Hammel, who didn't last beyond the fourth inning in two previous starts, vowed to be more aggressive in the strike zone and he was: 95 pitches, two walks, six strikeouts.
"Hey, it only took me a month to figure it out," said Hammel, now 1-3 with a 5.53 ERA.
Hammel worked exclusively from the stretch for the first time in his career. When he asked pitching coach Dave Eiland his thoughts about it, Eiland told him, "You can stand on your head if you want to."
Indians manager Terry Francona said of Hammel's performance, "He established his breaking ball and slider early. He got us to chase, put that in our heads and then got the fastball by us."
Hosmer homered off Indians starter Danny Salazar and extended his hitting streak to nine games. Hosmer was a triple shy of the cycle, and now has 15 hits in his last 34 at-bats, raising his average to .271.
Salazar ran into trouble with his pitch count, throwing 98 pitches before leaving after 4 2/3 innings. He gave up eight hits and two runs while striking out seven.
Edwin Encarnacion hit his fifth homer for the Tribe off a slider from Hammel. Encarnacion came into the game hitting .389 over his career against Hammel with three home runs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Curious decision: With Whit Merrifield on third and two out in the fifth, there was a meeting on the mound with Salazar, catcher Roberto Perez and the rest of the infield as Hosmer prepared to step in. The discussion no doubt centered around whether to pitch to Hosmer, the hottest Royals hitter, especially with Salvador Perez on deck. Perez had struck out twice already against Salazar. But Salazar went right after Hosmer, threw a two-seam fastball down the middle, and Hosmer smashed it into the fountains. More >
"We wanted to throw a fastball high and out of the zone," Francona said. "Just to see if he would chase. Obviously, we didn't do that. The way they were holding us down tonight that was a huge swing."
Staying aggressive: Royals third-base coach Mike Jirschele made an aggressive decision to send Jorge Bonifacio home from first on Escobar's double to left in the sixth inning and it paid off in an insurance run. Left fielder Michael Brantley left his feet to stop the ball and delivered to cutoff man Francisco Lindor, who fumbled the ball as he tried to make a quick throw and thus had no play at the plate. The play loomed large as Merrifield subsequently struck out and Mike Moustakas bounced out.
"Brantley made a good play out there," Lindor said. "I think we could have had him at the plate, but I messed it up."
Said Jirschele, "I knew Boni was off on the pitch. When it was hit down the line, I knew he had three. Then when I saw Brantley slide and come up, and I saw his release point, I knew the throw would be low so I thought I'd take a chance."
"Out of my hand, I wanted it back. He's kind of my unicorn. He and I have had many, many battles. He's won more than I have." -- Hammel, on the homer to Encarnacion
The Royals challenged a call in the third inning when Roberto Perez originally was called safe at second base on an attempted steal. The call was overturned in 53 seconds.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin (2-3, 8.87 ERA) will try to get on track against the Royals on Saturday in the 4:15 p.m. ET start. Tomlin has issued two or fewer walks in 36 consecutive starts. He is 1-1 with a 7.59 ERA away from Progressive Field this season.
Royals: Left-hander Jason Vargas (4-1, 1.42) will take the mound in the middle game of the series on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. CT. Vargas gave up one run and five hits over six innings on Monday in a 6-1 win over the White Sox.