Royals rally for first win when trailing late
Mike Matheny’s message to his team is to just forge ahead.
That worked for his Kansas City Royals Monday as Maikel Franco and Bubba Starling had RBI singles in the eighth inning as they rallied to beat the Cleveland Indians 2-1 on Monday night in the first game of a three-game series.
It was the Royals' first win this season when trailing after seven innings.
"They just keep playing," said Matheny, in his first season as Royals manager. "That's the message before the game. We're going to be sticklers on the little things.
"They just continued, even when we were down. I still felt like we were about to do something."
Scott Barlow (2-1) picked up the win in relief for Kansas City. He pitched one inning, allowing two hits and no runs. Greg Holland recorded his second save.
James Karinchak (0-2) took the loss. He walked the first two batters he faced, and they scored on the hits by Franco and Starling.
"It was tough; I haven't had an at-bat in a week," Starling said. "I've been going in on defense and running the bases. But I continued to stay locked in. Going into that at-bat against a sinker-slider guy, I just tried to stay to the middle, to the big part of the field."
Shane Bieber continued his stellar start to the 2020 season. He threw six scoreless innings, striking out nine and allowing just one hit. He also lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.20, and increased his major league lead to 84 strikeouts.
Bieber was not satisfied with his night.
"It was a tough one," he said. "I never fell into a rhythm. I'm a guy that kind of depends on getting into a rhythm early. That's generally when I have my best outings. I kind of struggled to find that rhythm.
"It was apparent from early on that their approach was to make me throw pitches, not to chase anything out of the zone. They weren't swinging at breaking balls underneath the zone or good chase pitches and they were taking fastballs in the zone.
"I felt like we were able to counter that pretty well. Obviously four walks is not ideal but we battled through it. It was a little bit of a frustrating outing, but all in all we ended up making it work."
Brad Keller allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings on three hits. He walked just one and struck out four.
"I felt like I racked up my pitch count in the first inning," Keller said. "I felt like I finally got into a groove, but not until the fourth, fifth or sixth inning. I was finally able to put the fastball where I wanted to."
The pitcher's duel came as no surprise, with Bieber and Keller on the mound. Bieber came in leading the MLB with a 1.35 ERA in seven starts. Keller did not allow a run in his first three starts after beginning the season on the injured list recovering from COVID-19. He allowed five runs on six hits in four innings in his last start, and had a 2.08 ERA.
The starters lived up to the hype. Through six innings, Bieber and Keller had allowed one hit each. Keller retired 11 straight at one point.
The Indians finally got to Keller in the seventh. After retiring Francisco Lindor leading off, he gave up a single to Carlos Santana, and then an RBI double to Franmil Reyes. Keller left after allowing one run on three hits. It was one too many against Bieber.
Once Bieber left the game, the Royals got two runners on in the seventh. But Nick Wittgren made an over-the-shoulder catch on a Whit Merrifield line drive to end the threat.
Royals C Salvador Perez remains on the 10-day injured list, but is building up his workload, according to manager Mike Matheny. No date was given for his return.
Cleveland traded RHP Mike Clevinger, OF Greg Allen and a player to be named later to San Diego in exchange for a group of Padres prospects, all from the 60-man roster. The Indians received INF Gabriel Arias, LHP Joey Cantillo, C Austin Hedges, INF Owen Miller, 1B/OF Josh Naylor and RHP Cal Quantrill. Naylor, Hedges, and Quantrill will join the major league roster once they report. To make room on the 40-man roster, OF Domingo Santana has been designated for assignment.
The Royals placed RHP Ian Kennedy on the 10-day IL and recalled RHP Chance Adams. They also activated OF Nick Heath from the IL and optioned him to their alternate site.
The Indians will send RHP Zach Plesac (1-1, 1.29 ERA). Plesac will take the mound for the first time since Aug. 8 after getting optioned for violating team protocols. In three starts, Plesac owns a 1.29 ERA with 24 strikeouts and two walks in 21 innings.
The Royals will start Matt Harvey (0-1, 11.12 ERA). Harvey, who will be making his third start of the season, hasn't been able to make it past the third inning so far. He hasn't allowed a run in the first two innings of either start, but he's allowed seven runs in 1 2/3 innings in the third innings.