A doubleheader in Cleveland hadn’t been this kind to the Kansas City Royals in more than a decade.
The Royals were due. After Salvador Perez’s historic homer contributed to a win in the first game of the twinbill, they followed through and completed the sweep with a 4-2 win in the second game of a series-opening doubleheader at Progressive Field on Monday night.
The Royals leaned on five of their bullpen arms including Joel Payamps, Domingo Tapia, Jake Brentz, Josh Staumont and Scott Barlow for the seven-inning game as they swept the Indians in a doubleheader for the first time since Sept. 13, 2008.
“You look at Payamps, he got us just far enough into this game to be able to use our horses on the back end,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “Tapia has turned into something I don’t think anybody wants to face. … It’s a great addition for our club, for our organization, two guys that enjoy being around here. Then you hand it off to Brentz, Josh and Scott, and they did what we hoped they’d do.”
The Royals (69-82) are guaranteed at least a split of the four-game series after having swept the doubleheader. The sweep gave them more wins against the Indians in one day than they had previously this season.
After winning the first meeting between the teams this season, the Royals had lost 11 in a row to the Indians (73-76).
“That was huge,” Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez said. “They’ve been beating up on us pretty good this year, but I think the most important thing we can do as the season is winding down is just carry some momentum going into the offseason.”
Both teams went with a cast of bullpen pitchers in the second game. The Indians used six pitchers with just one going for as many as two innings.
The Royals drew first blood in the first inning as Indians starter/opener Nick Wittgren struggled to throw strikes. Carlos Santana walked with the bases loaded to force in the first run. That was the third consecutive walk by Wittgren. Then Hunter Dozier’s sacrifice fly drove in the second run of the inning.
“It is pretty tough because you’re seeing one guy and then the next time — you’re not really getting familiar with that one starting pitcher,” Lopez said of facing a bullpen game. “It was one of those things that you kind of just have to trust the scouting reports, trust (coaches Terry Bradshaw and John Mabry) and trust your abilities. Jumping in that in the first inning was huge.”
The Indians cut that lead in half on Andres Gimenez’s third-inning solo home run, the lone run allowed in the first 2 1/3 innings by Payamps.
Sebastian Rivero, who caught the second game while Perez served as designated hitter, drove in the Royals’ third run with an RBI groundout to get a runner in from third base in the fourth inning.
Alberto’s RBI single in the sixth inning gave the Royals a three-run cushion, 4-1, in the final stretch of the 7-inning contest.
Indians first baseman Bobby Bradley hit a solo home run off Barlow in the seventh inning with two outs and two strikes to pull Cleveland within two runs. Barlow struck out the next batter and recorded the 14th save of the season.
“To win any game, any time, we make a big deal about it, there’s no doubt about it,” Matheny said. “You look at a 1-11 coming in here and that doesn’t sit right with anybody, even though we go about it the same way. But you just knew at some point we were going to be able to put together a little bit better product. That’s always the goal, how close can we get to looking perfect knowing that it’s not attainable. We chase it every single day.”
The teams continue their series on Tuesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. CT. The pitching matchup features Royals left-hander Daniel Lynch (4-5, 5.34) against Indians right-hander Cal Quantrill (6-3, 2.89).©2021 The Kansas City Star. Visit at kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.