KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor hit consecutive two-out homers in the ninth inning Saturday to not only inject some life into a tired-looking offense, but to save the Indians from their left-handed jinx.
Santana and Lindor’s homers off closer Kelvin Herrera gave the Indians a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Santana hit Herrera’s 98 mph 2-0 fastball over the fence in right center field. Lindor hammered a 92 mph 1-0 changeup over the right field wall.
“When Carlos hit his homer I said, ‘Thank God, we’ve finally got a lead,” said Lindor, who leads the team with eight homers.
Until Santana and Lindor’s homers, it was another frustrating day for the Indians’ offense. Jason Vargas, like almost every left-handed starter they’ve faced this season, held them in check. Vargas did it for six innings. When he left, the Royals led, 1-0.
The Indians finally tied it on a two-out single by Jason Kipnis in the eighth off Joakim Soria. It was the Indians’ first run in 12 innings against the Royals.
“That was a big hit by Kip,” said manager Terry Francona. “It meant we got to keep playing.”
Michael Brantley started the rally with a single off Soria’s body that deflected into short left field. Edwin Encarnacion moved Brantley to third with a soft single to right. After Jose Ramirez struck out, Kipnis singled into center.
“It felt good to finally do something positive to help this team,” Kipnis, who has been struggling since coming off the disabled list on April 21. “The shadows were starting to creep in. Soria has been using his change up lately and I wanted to make sure I saw that ball up in the strike zone and that’s what I did.”
The Indians are 5-8 in games where they face a left-handed starter. They will face another lefty on Sunday when Danny Duffy start for Kansas City.
Josh Tomlin pitched just as well as Vargas, but he had the misfortune of allowing a run. With the offense in surrender mode whenever they face a lefty — they entered the game hitting .214 against left-handers — it was a deficit too great for them to put Tomlin in position for the win.
Tomlin allowed one run on three hits in seven innings. He lowered his ERA from 8.87 to 7.12.
“There are 24 guys in this locker room who love to watch him pitch,” said left-hander Andrew Miller. “He’s cutting fastball in on guys, but he’s not doing it at 97 and 98 mph. It’s fun to watch him pitch.”
Vargas has tormented the Indians for a long time. He 6-3 lifetime against the Tribe and was helped by some great defense in the seventh.
He left after Kipnis opened the inning with a hustle single. Matt Strahm, another lefty, relieved. He struck out Brandon Guyer, but walked Yan Gomes. Abraham Almonte sent a bouncer down the first-base line that Eric Hosmer gloved for the second out, preventing extra bases.
Santana followed with a blooper to left that looked like it would fall for a two-run single, but Alex Gordon made a great diving catch to end the inning.
“I thought it was a bloop single,” said Santana, “but Gordo made a great catch.”
The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Lorenzo Cain doubled past a diving Ramirez with one out and Eric Hosmer brought him home with a single to right. Hosmer’s two-run homer off Danny Salazar was the decisive hit in Kansas City’s 3-1 victory on Friday night.
Miller (2-0, 0.00) pitched the eighth for the victory. Cody Allen pitched the ninth for his eighth save this season and the 100th of his career with the Indians. He retired Drew Butera with two out and runners on the corners on a pop to third.
“This is a good number,” said Allen. “But all in all, that’s exactly what it is, a number. This was a good win we pulled out today. We needed that win.
“Josh pitched his tail off. Andrew did his thing. I’m just trying to do my part.”
Miller and Allen have combined to allow one earned run in 26 2/3 innings over 23 appearances.