video thumbnail

CLE@KC: Ventura allows one run over seven strong

KANSAS CITY - If you're a Royals fan, you could be counting the ways you liked Wednesday's 4-1 victory over the Indians at Kauffman Stadium.

Alcides Escobar charging home after the catch -- on a popup to the shortstop.

• The Royals scoring all four runs on sacrifice flies -- the first time a winning team has done that in history.

Yordano Ventura pitching a sweet seven innings, holding the tough Tribe to six singles and one run.

Wade Davis escaping a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the eighth inning.

Greg Holland notching his 19th save with help from Eric Hosmer's long-armed catch into the dugout.

Yep, it all added up to the Royals' fourth straight victory and their ninth in the last 13 games. The win slipped them into second place in the American League Central, ahead of the Indians who'd arrived with nine wins in their previous 10 games.

"It's a big deal to get back over .500," manager Ned Yost said. "It's a big deal to play good against one of our division rivals that's going to be right in it until the end."

Escobar made his mad dash to score the second run in the third inning. Omar Infante hit a pop fly that sent Indians shortstop Mike Aviles into short left field, squinting into the sun.

"I saw Aviles was struggling for a moment with the sun, and when he caught the ball and went down to the grass I said, 'I'm going because he needs to get up again and make a perfect throw,'" Escobar said. "That's a hard play."

As Aviles made the catch, he took a seat on the grass and had to throw sitting down as Escobar fled from third base.

"I had to go down because if I stayed standing up that ball was going to drop," Aviles said. "I thought it was a heads-up play on their part to take off. I just threw it in the direction of home plate and hopefully it would get there, and it just didn't pan out right."

No, because pitcher Trevor Bauer caught the ball and tried to relay to catcher Yan Gomes, but threw over his head. Escobar was safe easily.

That was just one of the four sacrifice flies. Jarrod Dyson had one earlier in the third to get Mike Moustakas home. Escobar lofted one in the fourth, scoring Salvador Perez. Then Billy Butler's fly ball got Infante home in the seventh.

That, research showed, made the Royals the only team in Major League history -- or at least since sacrifice flies became an official statistic in 1954 -- to score four or more runs all by sac flies and win the game. The Montreal Expos scored four runs by sacrifice flies in a 1980 game but lost to the Cubs, 8-4.

"It's finding ways to win a ballgame, and good teams find that way," Yost said, citing the Royals' situational hitting. "Good teams find ways to score those runs and we did it four times today."

Ventura breezed through his start, using just 85 pitches in seven innings with no walks and three strikeouts. The Indians used three singles in the sixth for their only run.

"I went out there with the mentality to throw a lot of strikes, and I was pounding the strike zone and I knew something good was going to happen if I could keep throwing strikes," Ventura said.

This was his second straight win after an elbow scare on May 26 caused him to leave a game against Houston in the third inning. Nothing serious was detected and he skipped one start as a precaution.

"He had probably one of his best games of the year, command-wise, with his fastball," Yost said. "Just really was putting it exactly where he wanted it, a power fastball, and mixed in a really good changeup and an occasional good curveball."

Now the rookie right-hander has a 4-5 record and a 3.20 ERA.

And what Davis has now is 16 straight scoreless relief appearances spanning 19 innings. And this one wasn't easy. Not after his eighth inning began with Michael Bourn's single, Lonnie Chisenhall's walk and Michael Brantley's single.

Bases jammed, no outs. Oh my. The three-run lead was in peril.

"Once I loaded 'em up, all I was thinking was, 'Well, if they score two, that's fine. If I get two sac flies, that's perfect and I can get the third out,'" Davis said. "I just kind of slowed things down in my mind and just tried to really relax, I guess."

So Davis struck out both Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana, the 3-4 hitters, and got David Murphy to ground into the third out.

That also gave Davis 30 strikeouts in his 19 shutout innings.

"Right now he's probably the best relief pitcher in the league," Holland said.

Holland isn't doing so bad himself. He reeled off a perfect ninth for his AL best 19th save in 20 chances. Of course, he had a little help from Hosmer on the second out. The first baseman ran to the dugout tracking Jason Giambi's pop foul, reached in and almost tumbled down the steps. Somehow, he came out with the ball in the glove.

"I ran over to the dugout, just kind of stuck my glove out and got lucky," Hosmer said. "I really don't know how I caught it, it was a lucky catch."

It was just another thing for the fans to count. The Indians were doing a little assessing of the Royals as well.

"I think they're a really good team, actually they're a really difficult team to play," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They have speed, they have pitching, a bullpen, the power's coming -- we have a lot of respect for how good they are."

MLB.com Comments