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Cleveland «50000000x5110

Lee wins eighth straight to thrust Indians back into Central race

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
  •  

CLEVELAND -- For more than five months, the AL Central belonged to one team: the Chicago White Sox.

They've got company. The Cleveland Indians have turned a runaway into a race.

Cliff Lee won his eighth straight decision and Coco Crisp hit a two-run homer as baseball's hottest team beat the Kansas City Royals 5-4 on Saturday night, pulling the Indians within 3½ games of Chicago in the AL Central.

That's as close as Cleveland has been to the first-place White Sox since April 18.

The Indians have won 11 of 12, and in going 22-6 since Aug. 18, they've trimmed 11½ games off a Chicago lead that reached 15 on Aug. 1.

Back then, it seemed insurmountable. Not anymore. Not with six games remaining against the reeling White Sox, who have dropped seven of nine and will host a three-game series against Cleveland starting Monday.

"It's up to us," Lee said. "For a while, I thought it was out of reach and I was just thinking about the wild card, but the White Sox have fallen apart lately. We've got to play them six times. It's possible."

The Indians also improved to 12-3 in September and stayed a half-game up on the New York Yankees for the wild card.

Lee (17-4) remained unbeaten since July 8, allowing four runs and five hits in seven innings. The left-hander, who has just one loss since June 1 -- a span of 19 starts -- was staked to a 5-0 lead in the first inning.

Lee gave up John Buck's homer in the third, and Emil Brown's three-run shot in the sixth that brought the Royals within 5-4. But as it has done all season, Cleveland's steady bullpen came through.

Bob Howry worked a perfect eighth and Bob Wickman finished up for his league-leading 43rd save.

It's rarely easy for Wickman, who walked Mike Sweeney to open the ninth before striking out Brown. Angel Berroa singled, but Wickman got Mark Teahen on a slow roller to first and struck out Justin Huber for the final out.

The Indians' surge hasn't shocked Kansas City manager Buddy Bell, who was Cleveland's bench coach earlier this season before being hired by the Royals.

"It's all about pitching," Bell said. "If you get good pitching, you have a chance, and they've got some hitting over there, too. It doesn't happen overnight, but it's not what you would call a huge surprise. I could see it progressing."

Crisp's homer highlighted the Indians' five-run first off Runelvys Hernandez (8-12), who lasted just three innings.

With 16 games left, the Royals (48-98) are guaranteed to have the third-most losses in franchise history. Only the 2004 Royals (58-104) and 2002 Royals (62-100) had more than this Kansas City squad.

"We got back in the game, but it seems we never have enough," Bell said. "We have too many holes in the lineup to keep things going."

The Indians took the field knowing Chicago had lost 5-0 at Minnesota, and they didn't waste any time getting to Hernandez, who came in 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA in five career starts against Cleveland.

Grady Sizemore walked leading off, Crisp followed with his 14th homer, and the Indians scored four times before making their first out.

Jhonny Peralta doubled, Travis Hafner singled and Victor Martinez's RBI single made it 3-0. Ben Broussard and Ramon Vazquez then hit run-scoring groundouts off Hernandez, who was making his first start since Aug. 21.

With 17 victories, Lee, who has two starts left, should get some consideration for the AL Cy Young Award.

Lee, though, would give it to Los Angeles right-hander Bartolo Colon, whom the Indians traded to Montreal in 2002 for Lee, Sizemore and infielder Brandon Phillips.

"I think he (Colon) has got me by a little bit," said Lee, 8-0 with a 3.55 ERA in his last 12 starts. "I might have to throw two shutouts. If I had to pick a winner, it would be him."

Notes

  • Kansas City has lost 21 of 25 road games.
  • Lee is the first Indians pitcher to win eight straight decisions since Charles Nagy in 1996.
  • Royals 2B Andres Blanco made a sensational diving catch to rob Broussard of a hit in the third. Blanco raced back, left his feet and laid out to snag Broussard's soft liner before landing hard.
  • With Sizemore and Peralta (both are 23) each having at least 20 homers, the Indians have two players under 24 with more 20 or more homers for the third time. Ken Keltner and Jeff Heath did it in 1938, and Oscar Gamble, George Hendrick and Charlie Spikes hit over 20 homers apiece in 1973.
  • Indians minor league pitcher Jason Stanford was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in Cleveland early Saturday.
 
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Cleveland's Bob Wickman closes the door against K.C. for his league-leading 43rd save. (AP)
Cleveland's Bob Wickman closes the door against K.C. for his league-leading 43rd save. (AP)

Players of the Game
Cleveland

C. Crisp
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 2
Kansas City

E. Brown
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 3
 

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Kansas City Royals
Chip Ambres, CF3110011 .261
   a- Matt Stairs, PH1000000 .274
    Joe McEwing, 2B0000000 .247
Terrence Long, LF4110001 .278
Mike Sweeney, DH3000132 .295
Emil Brown, RF4113011 .287
Angel Berroa, SS4010020 .268
Mark Teahen, 3B4000010 .237
Justin Huber, 1B4000012 .229
John Buck, C3111000 .230
Andres Blanco, 2B2010000 .281
   b- Aaron Guiel, PH-CF1000010 .288
Totals334641107 
a-flied out for Ambres in the 8th
b-struck out for Blanco in the 8th
Batting
HR - Emil Brown (14, Lee), John Buck (11, Lee)
RBI - Emil Brown 3 (78), John Buck (38)
2-OUT RBI - Emil Brown 3 (20)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Terrence Long 1
DP - Berroa-Blanco-Huber, Berroa-Blanco-Huber
E - Justin Huber (2, misplayed grounder), Mark Teahen (19, throwing error)
Kansas City Royals
Runelvys Hernandez (L,8-12) 3655221 5.24
Shawn Camp 3200020 7.03
Ambiorix Burgos 1.1300110 3.75
Andrew Sisco 0.2000020 2.65
Pitches-Strikes - Runelvys Hernandez 73-43, Shawn Camp 46-29, Ambiorix Burgos 23-12, Andrew Sisco 14-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Runelvys Hernandez 3-4, Shawn Camp 6-1, Ambiorix Burgos 1-0
Batters Faced - Runelvys Hernandez 17, Shawn Camp 11, Ambiorix Burgos 6, Andrew Sisco 2
Cleveland Indians
Grady Sizemore, CF3100112 .291
Coco Crisp, LF4122000 .303
Jhonny Peralta, SS4110011 .286
Travis Hafner, DH3120110 .301
Victor Martinez, C4131000 .299
Ben Broussard, 1B4011003 .251
Aaron Boone, 3B3020112 .239
Ramon Vazquez, 2B3001002 .210
   a- Jose Hernandez, PH-2B1000012 .234
Casey Blake, RF4000024 .243
Totals3351153716 
a-struck out for Vazquez in the 8th
Batting
2B - Jhonny Peralta (32, Ru. Hernandez)
HR - Coco Crisp (14, Ru. Hernandez)
RBI - Coco Crisp 2 (63), Victor Martinez (74), Ben Broussard (59), Ramon Vazquez (5)
SB - Grady Sizemore (21, 2nd base off Ru. Hernandez/Buck)
CS - Victor Martinez (1, 3rd base by Burgos/Buck)
Team LOB - 7
Cleveland Indians
Cliff Lee (W,17-4) 7544072 3.75
Bob Howry (H,28) 1000010 2.42
Bob Wickman (S,43) 1100120 2.64
WP - Cliff Lee (4)
Pitches-Strikes - Cliff Lee 90-63, Bob Howry 11-6, Bob Wickman 19-11
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Cliff Lee 6-8, Bob Wickman 1-0
Batters Faced - Cliff Lee 26, Bob Howry 3, Bob Wickman 5
Game Information
Attendance - 32392
Game Time - 2:51
Temperature - 70
Umpires - Home - Jeff Nelson, First Base - Bill Miller, Second Base - Joe Brinkman, Third Base - Derryl Cousins