Things are looking much brighter for the Indians after last weekend, when the Tigers took three of four at Progressive Field.
"It was nice that we could help the city of Cleveland kind of step back off the ledge after the Detroit series," All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "We knew that we had this break coming up and four days of rest for a bunch of guys that could use it, both physically and mentally."
Kipnis was a major factor in the Tribe's back-and-forth win over the Royals. His sacrifice fly in the first inning gave Cleveland an early lead, as he finished the day 2-for-2 with a double, two walks, a run scored and two RBIs.
The second baseman ended the first half with 57 RBIs, the highest total for an Indians hitter before the break since Victor Martinez had 59 heading into the 2009 All-Star Game. Kipnis also is batting .301 with 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases. The Indians are 31-9 when Kipnis scores a run, 39-23 when he notches a hit and 13-6 when he steals a base.
"He's been awesome," Nick Swisher said. "That's why he's an All-Star. He's done such a great job for us. He's stepped up when we needed him, and I could not be more happy that he's representing us in the All-Star Game.
"It seems like if he rolls, we roll. He's kind of table-setting our lineup and it's a lot of fun to hit behind him."
Kipnis is one of two players in franchise history since 1933 -- the year of the first All-Star Game -- to have at least 20 stolen bases, 35 extra-base hits, 45 walks and 55 RBIs in the season's first half. Robbie Alomar accomplished the feat in 1999. Additionally, Kipnis joins Kenny Lofton as the only Indians players to enter the break with at least a .300 batting average, 20 or more steals and at least 39 extra-base hits.
After Kipnis drove in the first run of Sunday's game off Royals starter James Shields, Kansas City answered with a pair of runs in the second inning. With one out, Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez loaded the bases by allowing singles to Lorenzo Cain and David Lough and a walk to Johnny Giavotella. The Royals grabbed a 2-1 lead with a sacrifice fly by Alcides Escobar and a single to right from Alex Gordon.
In the third, the Indians answered those two runs with a pair of their own. Kipnis walked with one out and advanced to second on Swisher's groundout. Michael Brantley plated Kipnis with a single to right, and he came around when Carlos Santana ripped a 3-2 changeup from Shields down the right-field line for a double.
"He got his pitch count up real early and was grinding," Royals manager Ned Yost said of his starter. "He got us through five with the lead and that's what he does."
The Royals moved out in front again during the fourth inning, which began with a walk to Cain. The speedy center fielder stole second base and reached third when catcher Santana's errant throw landed in the outfield grass. Soon after, Lough reached on a bunt single and stole second. Cain scored on Giavotella's groundout to short, and Lough followed him after Escobar's single into left.
"In the two innings that they scored a couple runs, for some reason they got the leadoff guy on base and that got me a little bit out of rhythm," Jimenez said. "It was a little bit uncomfortable to throw strikes from the stretch."
The Indians retaliated with three more runs in the sixth inning for the game's final lead change. With Royals reliever Tim Collins on in relief of Shields, Lonnie Chisenhall led off with a walk. Drew Stubbs singled on the first pitch he saw from Collins, and both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Michael Bourn. Then it was Asdrubal Cabrera's turn to hit. After taking a ball, he sent a changeup from Collins past the outstretched glove of Cain in center field, plating the tying and go-ahead runs.
Cabrera traversed the final 180 feet home on Kipnis' single to center, pushing the Tribe's lead to 6-4. Cabrera and Santana each finished with three hits.
"There was a lot of good things," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Swish didn't get a hit, but he made a defensive play. Bourny gets a bunt down. Cabby with the big hit after we get the bunt down. There was a lot of contributions from one through nine."
Jimenez exited after issuing a leadoff single by Billy Butler to start the fifth. C.C. Lee came in for his Major League debut -- logging 1 1/3 scoreless innings that featured a walk and a hit batter. Rich Hill, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith and Chris Perez also pitched, with Hill getting the victory and Perez earning the save.
"Because we have four days off, we knew we could empty the bullpen, and that ended up helping us win a game," Francona said. "I think we're a team. To me, that means a lot. I'm very proud of the fact that -- because we've had a lot of ups and downs -- we've fought through things together."