KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Oscar Gonzalez hit a two-run double off the center-field wall in the 10th inning, scoring Amed Rosario and Jose Ramirez to give the Guardians a 6-5 victory over the Royals in extra innings on Monday at Kauffman Stadium.
The win gave Cleveland a one-game lead in the AL Central after Minnesota lost to the Yankees earlier that day.
Kansas City tied the score in the eighth on Salvador Perez’s RBI double off Cleveland reliever Nick Sandlin. It was the first earned run allowed by Sandlin in 17 appearances since July 5. But Eli Morgan pitched a shutout ninth, and Gonzalez’s double off Carlos Hernandez in the 10th put Cleveland back on top.
It was Gonzalez’s second go-ahead RBI hit in just his 62nd career game. Gonzalez said he was simply trying to hit the ball hard somewhere against Hernandez.
“I faced him a couple of times in the minors, so I knew how he had attacked me in the past,” González said through interpreter Agustín Rivero. “I just wanted to be able to put the ball in play and execute.”
Emmanuel Clase allowed a base hit to MJ Meléndez in the bottom of the 10th that scored automatic runner Nicky López from second and cut Cleveland’s lead to one run. But Clase got Bobby Witt Jr. to roll a double play on the next pitch, and Cleveland’s All-Star closer secured his 31st save in 33 chances when he grounded into Nick Pratto’s first base line, beating Pratto in a foot race to the bag for the final out.
Pratto originally called it safe on the play, but Guardians manager Terry Francona challenged the call and it was overruled after a brief review that ended the contest.
“Sometimes we made it difficult for ourselves,” Francona said afterwards. “We had three walks to start an inning. We didn’t finish a couple of plays. We almost didn’t finish another one. But you know what, there is something to be said (end with a win). Do you hear the music.
Cleveland improved to 10-4 in extra-inning games and a close 4-4 at Kauffman Stadium this year, despite outscoring the Royals 51-29 in those games. One night after losing in extra innings to Seattle at home, the Guards were able to resist KC’s late recovery effort.
Kansas City chose to intentionally walk Ramírez with Rosario on second base as an automatic runner to start the 10th. It was the same strategy employed successfully by Seattle a night before, but this time the play backfired when Gonzalez doubled.
“Getting the second race is probably more important because they’re going to start a guy in second like us,” Francona said. “Josey is one of the best hitters in the game and you’re setting up a double play. I totally get it. It’s nice to see the guys come.”
Tyler Freeman, who had a hit and scored a run playing in his fourth straight game, said playing at all levels of the minor leagues with Gonzalez showed him how valuable a right fielder can be in important situations.
“He’s always had that strength,” Freeman said of Gonzalez. “We knew that with the discipline at the plate he would be a Major League player every day. Look at him now, he is a star.”
After the Royals tied the score 2-2 in the fifth, Josh Naylor put Cleveland back in front with a solo shot just short of the fountains in right center. Naylor’s 17th home run measured 421 feet per StatCast, tying for the longest of the season and giving him 63 RBIs. Of Naylor’s 17 home runs, 12 have tied the game or put Cleveland ahead.
The Guardians took the lead in the second as the bottom of the order collected three base hits. Andrés Giménez advanced to third on Freeman’s single and scored on a perfectly executed bunt by Austin Hedges. Myles Straw added an RBI single off KC starter Brady Singer for a 2-0 lead for the Guardians. Francona credited third base coach Mike Sarbaugh for communicating the timing of the bunt.
“When we get baserunners we can be aggressive,” Francona said. “This is how we have to play. We can go from first to third. That’s when we can make some things happen.”
Cleveland outhit the Royals 12-7, including a pair of singles by Steven Kwan, who raised his career batting average to .483 in eight games at Kauffman Stadium.
Guardians starting pitcher Triston McKenzie retired nine of the first 11 batters he faced and struck out five Royals batters in 5 2/3 innings. He walked Michael Massey to lead off the fifth and hit a first-pitch home run to Drew Waters two batters later.
It was Waters’ first major league homer and the 23rd allowed by McKenzie this season, tied for third in the American League.
McKenzie felt he did a decent job of getting ahead of Royals hitters, but allowed them to work deep into the counts throughout the lineup.
“When I made mistakes, especially with two strikes, they made me pay for it,” McKenzie said. “They had really good at-bats from top to bottom.”
An opening walk to Bobby Witt Jr and a throwing error by Naylor kept McKenzie from getting past the sixth inning, but after Michael A. Taylor’s sacrifice fly cut Cleveland’s lead to one run, Francona called Sam Hentges from the bullpen.
Hentges got Massey to ground to first and pitched a scoreless seventh, striking out a pair.
But Sandlin walked Melendez leadoff in the eighth before advancing the count to Salvador Perez.
Pérez then sent a hard grounder to the left field corner for an RBI double that tied the score at 4-4. It was Perez’s 64th RBI and his seventh extra-base hit in his last 17 home games.
McKenzie said Guardians players talked on the bus after Sunday’s loss to the Mariners about staying positive and continuing to play their game.
“We haven’t been playing our best baseball, we all know that,” McKenzie said. “It hasn’t dimmed our light or changed our thinking going into these games. We’re still going to go out there and we’re going to keep playing hard.”
next: The series continues Tuesday with a first pitch at 8:10 pm from Kauffman Stadium. Right-hander Shane Bieber (8-8, 3.06) will start for the Guardians against Royals left-hander Kris Bubic (2-10, 5.47). The game will air on Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM 1100 AM, WMMS 100.7 FM and Guardians Radio Network.
Guardians merchandise for sale: This is where you can order new Cleveland Guardians gear, including jerseys, hats, jerseys, hoodies and much more.
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