Indians complete sweep of Royals on Santana's blast

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[September 23, 2016]  CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians Thursday night moved another step closer to being American League Central Division champions, and it was Carlos Santana and the bullpen leading the way.

Santana's three-run home run in the sixth inning broke a tie and lifted the Indians to a 5-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field.

Cleveland completed a three-game sweep of the defending World Series champions. With Thursday's win, the Indians reduced their magic number for clinching the American League Central Division title to four.

Santana was 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and four RBIs for a Cleveland offense that only generated five hits.

"We didn't do a whole lot offensively, but it was enough," said Indians manager Terry Francona.

After Indians starter Mike Clevinger was removed from the game after five innings, three relievers combined to pitch four scoreless innings on two hits.

Reliever Dan Otero (5-1) pitched two scoreless innings of one-hit relief with two strikeouts to get the win. Closer Cody Allen retired the side in order in the ninth inning to earn his 29th save.

"We have the best shutdown bullpen in the league," Clevinger said.

The Indians' bullpen ERA of 3.79 is the best in the American League.

"I think Tito has confidence in everyone down there," said Otero.

Royals reliever Dillon Gee (7-9) gave up three runs on two hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings to take the loss.

With the score tied at 2, the bottom of the sixth inning began with Gee hitting Jason Kipnis with a pitch and Francisco Lindor drawing a walk. Gee retired Mike Napoli on an infield fly for the first out.

But Santana belted an 0-1 pitch from Gee over the right-field wall for his career-high 34th home run, a three-run shot that pushed the Indians into a 5-2 lead.

"Gee's issue was command. He hit a guy, walked a guy, then got too much of the plate (to Santana)," said Royals manager Ned Yost.

In the last five games, Santana is 9-for-15, with three doubles, three home runs and five RBIs. After hitting 19 home runs with 85 RBIs last year, Santana has 34 homers and 83 RBIs this year.

"I'm happy for Carlos because he has really made an effort to be better than he was, and you don't see that a lot in veteran players," Francona said.

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Indians first baseman Carlos Santana (41) reacts after fouling a pitch off his leg in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Royals starter Jason Vargas, making his second start since returning from Tommy John surgery, gave up a one-out solo homer to Kipnis in the first inning. Kipnis hit an 0-2 pitch into the seats in right field for his 23rd home run.

"Kipnis hit a good pitch. It was a changeup, down, but he golfed it out," said Yost.

Lindor then drew a walk and, after Mike Napoli struck out, Santana clubbed a double to center field, scoring Lindor to make it 2-0.

With two outs in the second inning, Alex Gordon singled and rode home on Alcides Escobar's seventh home run, over the center field fence, tying the game at 2.

Vargas, who was on a pitch limit, retired the last 10 men he faced before being removed after 70 pitches and four innings. He gave up two runs on two hits, with four strikeouts and one walk.

"After giving up the two runs in the first inning, he settled down and threw the ball well," Yost said. "We're just not creating a lot of run-scoring opportunities for ourselves."

NOTES: Indians RHP Bryan Shaw gets overshadowed in Cleveland's bullpen because he usually pitches after LHP Andrew Miller and before RHP Cody Allen, the closer. However, in his past 43 appearances, Shaw has a 1.36 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .184 batting average. ... Indians OF Rajai Davis, 35, led the AL with 40 stolen bases heading into Thursday's action. He could become the oldest player to lead either league in steals since Rickey Henderson, at age 39, led the AL with 66 steals in 1998. ... Royals C Salvador Perez threw out Davis in the sixth inning Wednesday. It was the 30th attempted base-stealer Perez caught this year. The Kansas City record of 32 was set by Jason Kendall in 2010. ... LHP Danny Duffy will start for the Royals on Friday in Detroit against Tigers RHP Michael Fulmer. Indians RHP Trevor Bauer will face Chicago White Sox RHP Miguel Gonzalez on Friday in Cleveland.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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