By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: The Indians didn’t wait to get to the Kansas City bullpen this time.
After unloading on the visitor’s bullpen to notch Friday’s victory at Progressive Field, the Tribe batsmen wore down Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie in Saturday’s 5-3 win — their 50th of the season.
The Indians had two men on base in each of the first three innings, but had just one third-inning run to show for their effort against the Tribe’s former No. 1 pick via a Jason Kipnis sacrifice fly.
Finally, after Guthrie had retired the Indians in order over the next two innings, Lonnie Chisenhall unloaded on the right-hander with a grand slam that handed the Tribe a 5-0 lead in the sixth inning.
“I was just looking for something I could get the barrel on,” said Chisenhall, who stayed back on Guthrie’s 76-mph breaking ball. “Kaz [Indians starting pitcher Scott Kazmir] had pitched well, as good as you can right there, and he deserved to win. I’m happy to be the one to help him out.”
But Guthrie survived the big blow and gained a bit of life as his teammates chipped away at the deficit with a three-run seventh inning that included three Indians pitchers.
The lengthy inning began with Kazmir’s body language giving Indians manager Terry Francona and head trainer Lonnie Soloff the impression something might be wrong, so they went out to check on the veteran lefty.
But after a practice pitch, Kazmir convinced them to allow him to continue, although his command had become a concern with back-to-back walks to Royals batters Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain.
“Just the way [Kazmir’s] body language was, I just wanted to check on him,” Francona said. “He said he just tried to throw one way too hard…I wouldn’t have left him in [if he wasn’t fine].”
Kazmir remained in the game against left-handed hitter Mike Moustakas and induced him to pop out before turning the game over to reliever Matt Albers. But the first batter that Albers faced — second baseman Miguel Tejada — laced a single into left field that scored Perez to break up the Indians’ shutout bid.
With two out, Albers intentionally walked Alex Gordon to load the bases, which brought Alcides Escobar to the plate. Although Escobar wasn’t able to match Chisenhall’s feat, he did smack a slow chopper that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera charged, fielded and fired to first.
However, the first base umpire called the hustling Escobar safe on a close play at the bag, allowing two runs to score. Rich Hill got the Indians out of the jam on the next batter by freezing the dangerous Eric Hosmer with an inside fastball for a called third strike.
In the eighth inning, the Royals managed to get two more runners on with two out against struggling reliever Vinnie Pestano, who was looking to win his role back and preserve a two-run advantage.
Carlos Santana gave Pestano a helping hand with a Superman-like flying grab of a liner to his right off the bat of Tejada, ending the threat in dramatic defensive fashion.
“It was a nice play,” Francona said. “We’d probably still be playing if that ball gets through. Again, it’s our versatility — [Nick] Swisher played right field, [Santana] played first — it helps.”
Closer Chris Perez, who had a habit of making games interesting late at the beginning of the season, continued his recent success since coming off the disabled list by nailing down his 12th save with an uneventful ninth inning.
“I think he’s really staying down in the zone extremely well, so when they hit the ball off him, they’re not getting it in the air with much authority,” Francona said. “He’s pitched in six of the last eight games and he’s really done a good job.”
Kazmir, who limited the Royals to just four hits in 6⅓ innings while striking out six, improved to 5-4 on the season, with all five wins coming at Progressive Field. Guthrie took the loss to drop to 8-7.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com.