CLEVELAND — With one swing, Francisco Lindor shook the Indians from their early September slumber.
The All-Star shortstop homered leading off the first again, Mike Clevinger struck out 10 and Cleveland moved closer to its third straight AL Central title with a 9-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
The Indians ended a three-game losing streak and reduced their magic number for clinching another division title to 10 following Minnesota’s 5-2 loss to Houston.
After a 5-1 loss Monday night, Lindor, who sets the tone for Cleveland with everything he does, talked about the team being flat and needing a spark.
He provided an early one with his sixth leadoff homer — one shy of the club record set by Grady Sizemore in 2008 — as the Indians jumped to a 3-0 lead on Danny Duffy (8-12), whose season is over because of a sore left shoulder.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a leadoff hitter,” said Lindor, who has 31 homers. “To get things going.”
Yandy Diaz hit his first major league homer and Jason Kipnis added two RBIs for Cleveland, which has the most commanding lead of any first-place team in the majors.
Not only did the Royals have their season-high winning streak stopped at six, Duffy’s season came to an end rookie right fielder Brett Phillips bruised his right shoulder on a scary collision into the wall.
Duffy was on the disabled list from Aug. 13-23 with shoulder issues.
“I’m crushed about it,” Duffy said. “I get paid to pay baseball. I take pride that if you have an able body you should go. My body just said it was enough today.”
Staked to a 6-0 lead after two innings, Clevinger (11-7) allowed just three hits in six innings and remained unbeaten in his last seven starts. The right-hander, who could have a big role for the Indians in October, had a little more velocity on his fastball and struck out six of nine in one dominant stretch.
Diaz picked up an RBI on a fielder’s choice and Kipnis, who is moving from second base to center field, singled home a run in the inning before Duffy was removed after 26 pitches. The left-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012.
The Indians added three runs in the second off Burch Smith on Jose Ramirez’s double, Edwin Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly and Brandon Guyer’s RBI single.
DON’T DO THAT
Lindor got hit on the right forearm in his second at-bat by Smith, but didn’t think the Royals were throwing at him.
“If he was trying to hit me, it’s OK,” Lindor said. “He hit me in the right spot. We weren’t throwing at each other, if that’s what you guys are trying to get to.”
Clevinger wasn’t so sure, and sent a warning to Kansas City.
“I think that would be very unwise of the whole Royals organization,” he said. “Especially as much as we see them and the arms we have over here. I hope not. And I think for their sake, they’d better hope not either.
The Royals also hit Rajai Davis and the Indians plunked Brian Goodwin and Adalberto Mondesi.
Phillips was fortunate he wasn’t more seriously hurt after banging hard into the wall in the second inning.
Breaking back on Ramirez’s drive, Phillips just missed making a catch before barreling full-speed into the wall. His torso twisted awkwardly and he crumpled onto the warning track. His teammates and a trainer rushed to Phillips, who got to his feet and remained in the game after being examined.
Phillips was removed the next inning. He had a sling on his arm following the game.
Manager Ned Yost did not provide any further details on Phillips’ injury.
Kipnis isn’t thrilled about having to change positions, but he’s willing to do it as long as Josh Donaldson is healthy.
The Indians acquired Donaldson — the 2015 AL MVP — in a trade with Toronto, and once activated from the disabled list, he’ll take over at third with Ramirez going to second and Kipnis heading to the outfield.
Kipnis did the same thing a year ago.
“Does it take a little wind out of my sails?” he said. “A little bit. But not enough to get me to stop working, stop competing.”
Royals: C Salvador Perez (sprained left thumb) was out of the lineup for the sixth straight game. The six-time All-Star was injured Aug. 28.
Indians: LHP Andrew Miller is expected to throw a bullpen session on Thursday in Toronto as he recovers from shoulder soreness that landed him on the disabled list. Miller has been on the DL three times this season, but the reliever isn’t concerned about his latest issue which he has previously dealt with in spring training. The former All-Star left-hander has also been out with hamstring and knee injuries.
Corey Kluber tries to become the majors’ first 18-game winner as the Indians conclude their three-game series with the Royals, who will start Brad Keller.