CLEVELAND — Maikel Franco drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning and had an RBI single in the ninth as the Kansas City Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 8-6 Tuesday night to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and Cam Gallagher had an RBI double for the Royals, who had been outscored 51-18 and only held the lead after one inning in losing their first seven games in September.
“You want those rewards, and I don’t know if I’ve wanted one so bad,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said. “Just because they deserve it, the way these guys have been fighting. They’ve been relentless.
“You need days like this to give them that shot of encouragement. Hopefully, this is the start of a whole bunch.”
Adalberto Mondesí led off the eighth with a single off Adam Cimber (0-1) and came around on Franco’s fly to center, putting the Royals up 6-5. Later in the frame, Nicky Lopez was hit by Óliver Pérez’s pitch with the bases loaded, scoring Hunter Dozier.
Franco added a two-out single in the ninth off Adam Plutko to extend Kansas City’s advantage to 8-5. Greg Holland (3-0) worked two perfect innings, striking out three, for the win. Scott Barlow allowed one run in the ninth before earning his second save.
“I feel like we’ve been in a lot of games in the last month,” Holland said. “The work ethic, the patience and all that stuff. The guys haven’t stopped working.”
Carlos Santana, Sandy León and Francisco Lindor each homered for Cleveland, which had won three in a row to move into a tie for first in the American League Central.
Indians rookie Triston McKenzie struck out seven and allowed three hits in five innings, but was lifted after a season-high 92 pitches. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA through four starts.
“If they need me to throw another nine innings tomorrow, I’d do it because I love baseball, but I understand why I’m on a pitch count,” McKenzie said. “My attitude is to do as much as I can with those 90.”
Royals right-hander Jakob Junis gave up a season-high five runs and all three Cleveland homers in 4 1/3 innings, remaining winless in seven starts since Sept. 4, 2019.
Santana hit a two-run homer in the first and León had a solo shot in the second to stake Cleveland to a 3-0 lead, but Merrifield answered with a three-run blast onto the left-field porch in the third.
“Merrifield is a really, really, really good hitter,” McKenzie said. “I made a mistake and he capitalized on it.”
Lindor put the Indians back in front 5-3 in the bottom of the third with a two-run homer, plating César Hernández.
Kansas City tied the score again in the seventh as Lopez reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Matt Reynolds, then came around on Gallagher’s RBI double.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona missed his 28th game because of season-long gastrointestinal issues that required surgery.
BACK TO FORM
Indians LHP Brad Hand leads the majors with 12 saves in 12 opportunities, including a three-strikeout performance Monday against the Royals. The three-time All-Star failed in five of his final 17 save chances last year while battling a tired arm. “He’s been a real stabilizing force in the back of the bullpen,” team president Chris Antonetti said.
Antonetti said the Indians have had “some preliminary dialogue” with MLB about having players wear No. 14 in honor of Larry Doby. Doby became the first Black to play in the American League when he debuted with Cleveland on July 5, 1947. Jackie Robinson broke the color line on April 15, 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Royals: OF Jorge Soler (right oblique strain) was placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 6. He owned the third-longest consecutive games streak in the majors at 199 before sitting out Thursday against the White Sox.
Indians: 3B Jose Ramirez (left hand bruise) was out of the lineup and is listed as day-to-day after an MRI did not reveal significant damage. He exited early Monday and has experienced pain since originally being hurt Aug. 15 at Detroit.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy (2-3, 4.83 ERA) seeks to break a seven-start winless streak in Cleveland. He is 0-6 with a 9.33 ERA at Progressive Field since Sept. 22, 2014.
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-3, 3.43 ERA) faces Kansas City for the second time this year. He struck out 10 over six innings, earning the win on July 26 in Cleveland.