CLEVELAND -- Right-hander Mike Clevinger was in his comfort zone Tuesday night at Progressive Field, which meant he was pitching against a Central Division opponent.
Clevinger continued his division dominance and the Indians’ offense went to work early to help Cleveland even its three-game series against last-place Kansas City with a 9-3 victory in front of 17,041 fans.
The win -- just the Indians’ fifth in the last 13 games -- snapped a three-game losing streak.
Clevinger, who allowed just a run on three hits and struck out 10 over six innings, improved to 6-1 with a 2.15 ERA (19 earned runs over 79 2/3 innings) within the division -- 12 of his 28 starts this season.
“I thought Clev was good,” manager Terry Francona said of the right-hander, who improved to 11-7 with a 3.11 ERA. “We had a night where we didn’t have to leave him out there, which was really good. It does look to me like he’s kinda catching his second wind a little bit, though.”
Clevinger allowed a leadoff double followed by a walk to start the second inning, then proceeded to strike out five of the next six batters before surrendering his only run on a leadoff homer from Alex Gordon in the fourth.
“Now it’s almost like second nature in what we were trying to do,” Clevinger said. “Now we’re accomplishing it and seeing the results and I’m able to pitch more than I am, just kind of like get in sync and make sure that’s there. I can just stay solid and just keep the competitive nature versus thinking internally.”
The Indians scored three times in the opening inning off Royals starter Danny Duffy, who left the game with an injury after allowing an RBI single to Jason Kipnis that put Cleveland in front 3-0.
Francisco Lindor sparked the offense, opening the first with his sixth leadoff home run and 31st overall.
“I actually think, not just the homers, a lot times his at-bats kinda take on ... sometimes he’ll go up there and he’ll chase a breaking ball in the dirt or something and it seems like other guys start to, too,” Francona said of Lindor. “We seem to take our cue from him, so I’d say for the most part, that’s a really good thing. He’s pretty damn good.”
The Indians matched the output in the second, taking a 6-0 lead on a double from Jose Ramirez, followed by a sacrifice fly from Edwin Encarnacion and a single from Brandon Guyer.
Lindor was hit by a pitch in his next at-bat after the homer in the second, then KC hit Rajai Davis in the seventh before Brad Hand hit Adalberto Mondesi in the eighth.
Following the game, Lindor dispelled the notion that the teams were throwing at each other.
“I think that would be very unwise of the whole Royals organization,” Clevinger 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.”
Kipnis, who continued his hot streak with a 2-for-4 performance drove in another run with a two-out single in the fourth. He’s hitting .400 (12-for-30) with three homers and 10 RBIs over his last nine games.
Designated hitter Yandy Diaz joined Kipnis with a multihit effort -- more notably hitting the first homer of his big league career to put the Indians in front 8-1 in the fifth.
Diaz, who tripled in the seventh to fall a double short of the cycle, failed to go deep in his first 69 games and 217 at-bats/243 plate appearances.
“Imagine going so many games without a home run,” Diaz said through an interpreter. “To finally get one, to have it go out today, it was great. I think I knew, everybody knew at some point it was going to happen. One day it was going to happen. It just happened to be that day, and thank God it happened today.”
“He’s going to grow into that,” Francona said of Diaz’s power potential. “But when he barrels up balls and is spraying them all over the field, that’s good enough. He’s a strong kid and with maturity playing the game, he’ll learn how to do that.”
Cleveland got RBIs from seven players, with Diaz and Kipnis each driving in a pair.