CLEVELAND – Round one of the battle of the Central Division basement went to the Indians, and it came via a knockout.
Reaching season highs in runs and doubles (7), while clouting a trio of three-run home runs for the first time since 2004, the last-place Indians laid waste to the fourth-place Royals, 15-4, Friday night.
Fireworks weren’t limited to the postgame display at Progressive Field.
“Needless to say, we swung the bats very well, especially the long ball,” said Cleveland manager Manny Acta, whose club entered the night with a total of seven runs over its last six games. “That really helped us.
“Baseball’s tough to predict. We have to enjoy (the offense) when it comes around.”
It came around early and often for the Indians, who broke the game open with a six-run second inning off Royals starter and former Cleveland right-hander Bryan Bullington.
Matt LaPorta clouted the first of the three three-run homers to score the game’s first runs.
“LaPorta set the tone for us,” Acta said of the Indians’ first baseman, who homered for the second time in two nights, with seven of his nine homers coming at home.
Kansas City scored three times in the fourth off Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin to pull within three runs, but the Indians answered with a run in the bottom of the inning and three more in the fifth, before tacking on five in the eighth to cap their finest offensive performance of the year.
“It seems like you just need that one big knock and we got a quite a few of them,” said second baseman Jason Donald. “We just did a fantastic job tonight. It wasn’t just the top of the lineup or the middle of the lineup. It was one through nine.”
Every player in the Indians’ lineup managed at least one hit, with five producing multi-hit nights.
“Some guys had some big days for us,” Acta said.
The biggest came from the unheralded trio of Donald, third baseman Jayson Nix and catcher Chris Gimenez.
Donald went 4-for-5 with a double and three runs, while Gimenez and Nix drove in four runs apiece, Nix going 3-for-5 with two doubles and a homer, and Gimenez going 2-for-4 with a double and a homer. The four RBIs were career highs for Nix and Gimenez.
“We feel like we should have a few more days like this around here,” said Gimenez, who raised his average from .172 to .211 with his biggest night in the big leagues thus far.
Tomlin was the beneficiary of the offensive onslaught, getting the win despite lasting only five innings and allowing three runs on eight hits and four walks.
“Josh struggled with his command,” Acta said. “He walked more guys than he usually does, but he still gave us five innings.”
Tomlin, 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts at home, has logged at least five innings in each of his first six starts in the majors, becoming just the fifth Cleveland pitcher to accomplish as much since 1920. The right-hander joins Herb Score (1955), Steve Dunning (1970), CC Sabathia (2001) and Cliff Lee (2002) on the list.
Not that it was required, but the Indians got a positive effort out of reliever Justin Germano, who took over for Tomlin and continued his scoreless-outings streak by shutting out the Royals on three hits over two innings.
Germano hasn’t allowed an earned run in 11 games (16 2/3 innings) since being promoted from Triple-A Columbus, accounting for the longest streak by an Indians’ reliever this season.
The big win brought the Indians closer to a smaller victory – finishing ahead of Kansas City and out of last place in the Central. Cleveland trails the Royals by two games with two more to go in the series and nine left to play against KC before the regular season is complete.
“It’s a pride thing,” Acta said. “No one wants to finish last. There’s always something to play for, but the most important thing for us is to make individual progress.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.