The beginning of this game was promising for the Royals. By the time Salvador Perez, today’s cleanup hitter, was walking back to the dugout they already had a run and Mike Clevinger appeared to be on the ropes, a bit. Fortunately for him, he has perhaps the most underappreciated shortstop in baseball playing on his team, Francisco Lindor.
Lindor leads off for Cleveland and he immediately doubled to left in the bottom of the inning against Jakob Junis. Michael Brantley followed up with a single and the game was tied. Junis settled down and we went to the third inning still tied at one. The Royals got a pair of doubles from Jon Jay and Jorge Soler and suddenly they were in the lead again. But Francisco Lindor got to bat again in the bottom of the inning and just cleared the yellow line to hit the fence on top of the wall in right field for a home run. Tie game again.
Clevinger, who had benefited from double plays early in the game to keep things close, finally seemed to settle in. But so did Junis; he even struck out the side without allowing a runner in the fifth inning. But Francisco Lindor was coming back up to lead off the sixth. He doubled to left, again. And Michael Brantley brought him home, again, this time with a double. Junis managed to get the next two batters out before the first hitter in the non-Lindor/Brantley division got a hit. Yonder Alonso drove home someone other than Lindor, Brantley, for some insurance with a sharp groundball into right field. Junis then walked the next two batters but this time Ned Yost went to the bullpen before the grand slam and Mike McCarthy escaped the inning.
McCarthy stayed on in the seventh. Around came Lindor, again. Home run left-centerfield. Brantley singled to left, went to third on a terrible pickoff attempt, and scored on a seeing-eye single to Edwin Encarnacion.
If you could delete the plate appearances of Lindor and Brantley the Royals would have shut out Cleveland on two hits. But commissioner Rob Manfred hasn’t instituted that particular rule change, just yet, so the Royals lost. Junis continued the young pitcher pattern of looking completely dominant for stretches and clueless for others. He did strike out 7 and only allowed the first Lindor bomb and walked only the 2. His peripherals could certainly have been worse.
Positives? Jorge Soler had a 3-hit game including a pair of doubles. Jon Jay had a trio of his own hits including his fifth extra-base hit of the year. It was absolutely a game for lead-off and second-place hitters. Whit Merrifield also extended his hitting streak to 6 games.
Blaine Boyer is still pitching, too. He lowered his ERA to 13.83 with 1.1 perfect innings.
The Royals will have another chance to win the series tomorrow when Danny Duffy takes the mound against reigning Cy Young Award Winner Corey Kluber.