Royals' rubber-game win caps winning May

Royals' rubber-game win caps winning May

Royals' rubber-game win caps winning May
CLEVELAND -- How's this for a triple play? The Royals had a winning series, a winning road trip and a winning month.

A 6-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on a sunny Wednesday at Progressive Field ensured that pleasant mix at the end of Kansas City's nine-game eastern journey. The Royals took two of three in this series, went 5-4 on the trip and finished May at 15-13.

And a rare May it was for the Royals, who are off on Thursday. They had not won 15 games in the merry month since 1996, when they were 15-12. And this was the team's first winning May since its 14-12 mark in 2000.

So maybe, just maybe is it time to expunge the memory of that 12-game losing streak that destroyed their April?

"We're like 18-14 since that streak. It's time to forget about the streak," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We've played really good baseball from that point on, and we're going to continue to get better. We've got guys coming back that are going to help us."

The Royals' record was 3-14 when that long skid ended and they were seven games out of first place in the American League Central. Guess what? They're still seven games out, so in the intervening 36 days, they've hung in there even if not always at the top of their game.

"We haven't played good at all, offensively at least," left fielder Alex Gordon said. "We haven't done what I think we're capable of doing, and to only be six or seven games out, hopefully we can put something together. ... Lucky for us, other teams haven't been playing that great, so we're still in the hunt."

"I think we're on the right path," said catcher Brayan Pena.

The path got a little rocky early on Wednesday when the Indians jumped ahead of left-hander Bruce Chen, 3-0, in the second inning. But Chen soon found himself with a 5-3 lead in the fifth.

"A lot of two-out rallies," Yost said. "That just shows you our offense now. We're down three and they just keep getting after it, even with nobody on and two out."

That happened twice.

In the fourth inning, Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez retired the first two batters before Alcides Escobar's single, Gordon's double and Johnny Giavotella's single produced two runs. Again in the fifth, after two batters went out, Jeff Francoeur doubled and scored on Pena's single.

There also were two outs in the third inning with Giavotella on with a double. Mike Moustakas doubled him home and scored on Francoeur's single.

Indians manager Manny Acta is quite familiar with two-out danger.

"Some people said that's one of the times when a pitcher is kind of vulnerable," Acta said. "We have attacked that a lot these last couple of years with some of our guys. I actually have described it as a shark smelling blood in the water. That's how we talk to the guys: 'When you have two outs and nobody on, this is it right here. I've got to eat up this guy and get out of here.' "

This time, though, the Royals attacked the shark and got Chen ahead, 5-3.

"Once I got the lead, I said, 'You know what, I can't let my teammates down. They've worked very hard and I'm going to give it everything I can,'" Chen said.

At that point, Yost was also feeling pretty positive considering the way Chen began the afternoon.

"He was really grinding it out, struggled to command the ball," Yost said. "But I felt really good when we got the lead, because Bruce always finds a way for that little extra to get where we need him to go. And that was at least through the fifth inning."

That Chen did, yielding to the bullpen, which put together four shutout innings. Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Jose Mijares got through with minimal problems, but big Jonathan Broxton had big problems in the ninth.

By then, the Royals had added a sixth run. But the three-run lead was quickly in jeopardy. One out gave way to two walks sandwiched around a single by Jason Kipnis -- the bases were jammed and the lunchtime crowd of 17,112 was whooping.

"I just wasn't throwing the ball over the plate. I was missing by a good bit, it wasn't even close," Broxton said.

Pena trotted to the mound to give the towering closer some advice.

"'Stay cool. Don't rush.' And that's exactly what he did, he followed that pace and we got that ground-ball double play," Pena said. "He did his job. One thing is he never lost his velocity."

Jose Lopez rapped a bouncing ball right at second baseman Irving Falu, who started a game-ending double play.

After 10 days and nine games on the road, the Royals were heading for Kansas City.

"It's been very good for us," Chen said. "We started in New York and lost two out of three. We played in Baltimore, a very hot team and played them very good (2-1). The Indians, when we got here, were at the top of the division and we took two out of three."

The Indians fell into second place, the Chicago White Sox are in charge and the Royals are not that far behind in the AL Central race.

"Now we've just got to go home and get it turned around there, and we'll be all right," Yost said.

Yost knows only too well that his team is just 5-17 at Kauffman Stadium.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.