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Starling shines defensively but the Tribe defeat the Royals, 8-3

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The Indians are cooling off the Royals.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Looking to bounce back from a crushing defeat in 14 innings last night, the Royals sought revenge against their division foe in game two of a four-game set. Struggling to find consistency at the plate, Kansas City was stifled offensively by Indians’ starter Zac Plesac, resulting in a 8-3 loss Friday night.

Facing the Tribe for the second time in less than a week, Jakob Junis climbed the mound with the hopes of emulating similar success from last time out. Holding Cleveland scoreless over six innings in his previous start, the Royals’ right-hander came in with a 1.35 ERA in his last three starts. And in the top of the first, that number would shrink even more. With runners at first and second with one out, Junis induced a 3-6-3 double play that was overturned thanks to a challenge by Ned Yost and company. However, following an easy first and second inning from Plesac, Cleveland broke through off Junis in the top half of the third. Coming in with a batting average north of .480 off the Kansas City starter, Francisco Lindor roped an RBI-triple to add a few more points to his impressive mark. Two batters later, Mike Freeman poked a two-out single to make it 2-0.

Unable to string together hits off Plesac, the Royals’ offense was shut out for the first four frames of the evening. But in the bottom of the fifth, the bats began to heat up. With one out, Whit Merrifield reached on a fielding error and Alex Gordon pushed him to third on a single to right-center field. Suddenly, Kansas City approached their best scoring opportunity on the night. Keeping the line moving, Hunter Dozier drove in Merrifield on a single to center field, cutting the lead in half. Unfortunately, Jorge Soler struck out in a 10-pitch battle and Cheslor Cuthbert grounded out softly to first base for the final out.

Despite his pitch count rather low, Junis headed out for the sixth in need of a quick inning and give the offense a chance to tie or take the lead late. Just as the tides were shifting in the direction of the Royals, Cleveland stole all the momentum back on one swing. José Ramírez, the hero of Thursday night’s marathon game, pounded a three-run shot far beyond the Kansas City bullpen in right. Extending the lead to 5-1, Plesac returned to the bump and bounced back to continue his domination over the Royals’ lineup.

In the top of the seventh, Junis was chased following back-to-back singles to open the frame. Jorge Lopez came on in relief but struggled to find his command for the second straight night. As the game begun spiraling out of control, Bubba Starling ignited the crowd in an otherwise dreary game. Trailing 6-1, Ramírez roped a line drive to center field. Hauling it in with his momentum carrying him towards home plate, Starling fired home. Skipping in on one bounce, Lindor was cut down at the plate by a couple of feet. Receiving the loudest cheer of the night from the home faithful, it wasn’t realized until a few minutes later the magnitude of the strike from Starling. The throw was recorded at 100.7 mph, making it the hardest-thrown outfield assist at the big league level in 2019.

Here is the throw.

Lopez was tagged for a run a piece in innings eight and nine, but did manage eat three innings in a low-leverage situation, giving the bullpen a much needed day of rest. In the bottom of the ninth, the tail-end of the lineup found some success. Following base hits from Starling and Lucas Duda, Humberto Arteaga singled to trim the lead to 8-2 and Merrifield plated the third run on a fielder’s choice.

Falling to 39-66 and 9-5 since the All-Star break, the Royals will attempt to steer the ship back on course tomorrow evening. Glenn Sparkman will go for Kansas City while Mike Clevinger toes the slab for the Tribe. First pitch is scheduled for 6:15 CT