CLEVELAND — Mike Clevinger pitched six sharp innings and rookie Bradley Zimmer made a sensational catch in center field before ending Jason Hammel’s bid for a perfect game, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 4-0 win over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.
Roberto Perez hit a two-run homer off Hammel (6-10), and Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana also connected as the defending AL champions moved a season-high 16 games over .500 at 72-56.
The Royals fell eight games back in the AL Central and were shut out for the second straight night. They have not scored in 25 innings.
Clevinger (7-5) struck out a career-high nine and matched Hammel pitch for pitch before giving way to Cleveland’s bullpen.
But if not for Zimmer’s catch , Clevinger may not have gotten past the fifth.
With a runner at first and two outs, Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain sent a drive to straightaway center that seemed destined for extra bases. But the speedy, 6-foot-5 Zimmer launched himself and fully extended his body and glove before making the grab and crash landing in the grass.
When he rolled over to show the umpires he had the ball in his glove, Clevinger raised both arms over his head and applauded his teammate.
Hammel was perfect for 5 1/3 innings, retiring the first 16 batters with relative ease before giving up his first hit when Zimmer grounded a 2-2 pitch through the middle.
Two pitches later, Perez, Cleveland’s No. 9 hitter, connected for his third homer, a shot to left-center that barely cleared the 19-foot wall and caromed off the metal railing.
One of Cleveland’s most laid-back players, Clevinger had “Sunshine” on the back of his jersey for Players Weekend. And while he was delivering a glowing performance, Hammel was even brighter for a while.
The right-hander, who came in 3-0 against Cleveland this season, coasted into the sixth, going to a three-ball count just once before the Indians finally got to him with three consecutive hits producing two runs.
An inning later, Encarnacion hit Hammel’s first pitch deep into the left-field bleachers for his 30th homer. The slugger is the only major leaguer to hit at least 30 homers in each of the past six seasons. Santana then connected for his 19th, a shot into the lower deck in right.
The Royals threatened against Clevinger in the fourth, loading the bases on a pair of singles and a two-out walk. But the right-hander got Alcides Escobar to hit a pop fly to short right that second baseman Jose Ramirez ran down for the final out.