Facing a two game losing streak and having fallen two games behind Cleveland in the American League Central Division standings, Bruce Chen's turn in the rotation seemed to be just what the Royals needed as they defeated the Indians tonight 5-4.
Chen, a longtime journeyman, surprised many with his 12-7 record last season and he certainly has picked up right where he left off last season. Chen went seven strong innings and was dominant for a long stretch of it, giving up two runs on six hits over seven innings. Improving to 3-0, Chen now has a 2.42 ERA on the season.
However when Chen left, it was a different story as the Royals barely escaped as the Indians had the bases loaded with two outs against Joakim Soria after trailing 5-0.
The Royals got on the board in the third inning as Chris Getz tripled to right scoring Alcides Escobar. The duo had previously teamed up for a double play in the previous inning on defense. Melky Cabrera then grounded out, however the defense was playing back so Getz was able to make it a 2-0 lead for Kansas City.
After scoring once in the fourth, Kansas City added to a 3-0 lead in the fifth with two more runs on an Alex Gordon double to score Cabrera and then came around to score on a Jeff Francoeur single.
After the Indians put up two against Chen in the seventh, he exited to Blake Wood who pitched the eighth and allowed a run on two hits to make it 5-3 heading into the ninth.
Soria came on to close the game and once again as has been the theme so far this season, it was a hair-pulling final innings for the Royals. With the bases loaded, Soria walked Shin-Soo Choo to bring the Indians within one run before striking out Carlos Santana on three straight cutters to end the game. The run was not earned as Wilson Betemit was charged with an error throwing to Kila Ka`aihue at first.
The often dominant Soria has raised many questions with his 5.59 ERA so far, but he has been able to pick up five saves. Former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery said on the post game show that he isn't too worried and believes it mainly is due to the cold weather Kansas City has played in thus far. Whatever the reason, us fans are watching it daily and hoping that in fact it is nothing more than the weather.
Defense is something that will not often show up in your box score, but there were three key plays made by the Kansas City defense that showed part of the marked improvement in the field so far. Alcides Escobar made a great throw on a grounder to retire Michael Brantley, the first batter of the game. In the seventh, Alex Gordon threw out Indians catcher Lou Marson at the plate to end the seventh and helped preserve a run. In the end it proved to be the difference in the game. Gordon made another great play in the ninth, robbing leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore of a hit. Gordon was 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and now has a hit in 13 straight games.
Kansas City improves to 11-6 as Chen picks up the win, and Soria the save. Cleveland fell to 12-5, as Jeanmar Gomez was charged with the loss. The Royals will try to get back into a first place tie tomorrow evening as Luke Hochevar (2-1 4.21 ERA) will square off against Justin Masterson (3-0 1.33 ERA).