Cleveland Indians outfielder Jake Bauers made a subtle tweak in his swing a couple of days ago against Baltimore that resulted in a pair of hits, so he was eager after a day off to get back on the field.
That little change is suddenly producing big results.
Bauers matched a career high with four hits while driving in three runs Tuesday night, and the Cleveland bullpen bailed Trevor Bauer out of a late jam, allowing the Indians to hold on for a 9-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals to open their three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
"It's nice to make a stupid little adjustment and feel good and lock it back in," said Bauers, who was in a 1-for-22 slump before the change, and is 6 of 7 at the plate since. "Most of the time in this game it's the simple little thing."
Pitching a day after the sudden death of his former teammate and friend, Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, Bauer (7-6) left nursing a 7-4 lead with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh.
Oliver Perez managed an out before surrendering a sacrifice fly, and Adam Cimber used his sinker-style motion to induce the final two outs and preserve the Indians' lead.
"I threw a lot more pitches than I'd hoped for. A lot of foul balls. A lot of long at-bats," Bauer said. "It's just going to happen sometimes, I guess, just try to battle through it."
The Indians scored twice more before All-Star closer Brad Hand wrapped up the ninth inning.
"We added some runs and that was good to see," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Five others also drove in a run for the Indians, who have picked up in July right where they left off in June. They went 17-9 last month to match the Yankees for the best mark in the American League.
Most of their damage came against Jakob Junis (4-8), who matched a season high by allowing six earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.91 ERA over his last six starts.
He didn't get a whole lot of help from his defense, either.
The Royals' circus was summed up when Carlos Santana led off the fifth with a hard-hit ball to first base. It popped out of the glove of Cheslor Cuthbert and was fielded by second baseman Nicky Lopez, who then had his throw bounce out of the glove of Junis covering first.
Kansas City also committed an error during the Indians' five-run third inning.
It began when Tyler Naquin and Francisco Lindor led off with singles, and continued when Santana walked to extend his league-leading on-base streak to 25 games. Jason Kipnis walked in a run, Jose Ramirez plated another with a fielder's choice grounder, and Bauers added two more runs with a double.
Roberto Perez kept the inning going when he reached on an error by third baseman Hunter Dozier.
The only bright spots for the Royals were Jorge Soler and Adalberto Mondesi. Soler's towering solo home run in the second traveled an estimated 451 feet, while Mondesi trumpeted his return from the injured list with a two-run homer in the fifth.
"He hit some balls tonight," Francona said of Soler. "My goodness."
Dozier tried to add an inside-the-park homer in the sixth, running through the stop sign at third when the throw from the outfield went awry. Dozier was easily thrown out at the plate.
"You love the intensity, young guys really trying to do things. But yeah, you're down four (7-3). You have got to try to play it safe," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "The reward is not worth the risk right there. You've got to hold tight with no outs."
Bauer had Skaggs' initials and No. 45 written on his cap and also scratched "TS45" into the dirt on the back of the mound before throwing his first pitch. He and Skaggs played together in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. The 27-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitcher was found dead in his hotel room Monday.
The Royals recalled Mondesi (right groin strain) from a minor league rehab stint and RHP Jake Newberry from Triple-A Omaha. They also optioned RHP Scott Barlow and INF Humberto Arteaga to the same club. Mondesi had been sidelined since June 19.
RHP Danny Salazar (right shoulder) will make another rehab start in Arizona after experiencing no problems in 1 2/3 innings Sunday. "The reason is they want to keep him as much as they can consistent," Indians manager Terry Francona said. ... RHP Bradly Zimmer (right shoulder) is throwing from 105 feet and RHP Corey Kluber (fractured right ulna) is throwing from 90 feet, Francona said.
Indians RHP Mike Clevinger (1-2, 5.89 ERA) makes his second start since coming off the IL when he faces LHP Danny Duffy (3-4, 4.43) and the Royals on Wednesday night. Clevinger allowed seven runs over 1 2/3 innings against Baltimore last Friday.