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Cleveland completes four-game sweep of Royals, claims sole possession of AL Central lead

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Until at least tomorrow night, Cleveland stands alone atop the division

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Please welcome your new kings, AL Central citizens. With today’s 4-0 win over the Royals, Cleveland has claimed sole possession of the division lead, and with the White Sox having an off-day today, they will hold that lead on their own until tomorrow night, at minimum.

How did we get here? Well, long ago two atoms rubbed together and caused an explosion. Some things happened, some time passed, and then Franmil Reyes launched a ball 400 feet and pulled out a fake bazooka rounding second base. And it was beautiful.

Now, to be clear, Cleveland didn’t need Franmil Reyes to take another pitcher deep today for his ninth home run of the season. By the time he came up in the eighth inning, they were leading, 3-0, and the Royals offense had been thoroughly dismantled by Triston McKenzie and Nick Sandlin. But it sure as heck didn’t hurt.

Cleveland’s first run of the game came in the second inning when Harold Ramirez led off with a double and Amed Rosario singled him home two batters later.

The second came when Jordan Luplow singled home newcomer René Rivera in the fifth inning. One inning later, Amed Rosario came up clutch again, this time with a triple that plated Reyes, who walked to start off the sixth and made it to second on a wild pitch. That made it 3-0 and set up the Reyes cake-topper two innings later.

Rosario came into the game hitless in his last nine plate appearances, but overall he’s having a pretty solid couple of weeks. He hasn’t walked since April 23, but he has eight hits in his last 25 plate appearances, including two triples.Even with the two RBI (and a triple), his hardest-hit ball of the day was a 110.2 mph groundout in the fifth. That was one of eight Cleveland balls in play at 100 mph or higher. One of them was, of course, Franmil Reyes — his home run left his bat at 108.5 mph.

On the mound, Triston McKenzie had a much-needed rebound game from his two-inning clunker against the White Sox. He still walked four batters this time out, but he wasn’t missing by much. He looked like he regained some of the command that left him last week, especially on the high fastballs that he frequently uses as an out pitch. A few got away from him, but for the most part, he lived on the outer edge of the zone, just sometimes a little too outer, if you catch my drift.

McKenzie threw 92 pitches in total — 65 four-seamers, 15 sliders, 11 curveballs, and a changeup. He induced 11 whiffs, mostly on his slider, and got 10 called strikes from his fastball.

Having crossed the 90-pitch mark, McKenzie exited the game in the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead and runners on first and second. With a tie game just a big swing away, Terry Francona went to his rookie sidearmer, Nick Sandlin, to get out of the jam. It worked out flawlessly.

Sandlin whipped his 94 mph sinkers up there to Salvador Pérez, inducing a ground ball from the All-Star catcher. He followed that up with another groundball out from Jorge Soler. It took him a total of five pitches to unwind the rally that Kansas City was attempting. His efficiency in the sixth allowed him to stay in for the seventh as well. He had to labor through it a bit more, but with a total of 17 more pitches, he maintained the four-run lead by pounding the zone with sinkers and dropping the occasional slider in there.

James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase weren’t as efficient as they usually are, but neither allowed a run to cross anyway. And when Clase struck out Ryan O’Hearn, stranding a runner on third, the game was over and the four-game sweep was complete.

Overall, the team is rolling, and they are fun. All of the bad BABIP luck and regression from so many hard-hit balls right to fielders is evening out back to normal levels, leading to a downright good offense. Oh yeah, and Harold Ramirez is a Hall of Famer. Book it.

Corner Pieces

  • Cesar Hernandez is back, y’all. He’s the latest Cleveland veteran to suddenly come alive and start hitting. Today he went 3-for-5 and he has a hit in four of his last five games.
  • Harold Ramirez hit another double today and scorched a couple of balls as he’s done every day since being promoted and plopped down in center field. He already has three doubles; surely the homers will start following eventually.
  • I don’t know how much you can ask for from a career journeyman catcher like René Rivera, but he looked great today as Cleveland’s third catcher. He’s only in there because Roberto Pérez is injured and Austin Hedges needed a break after catching last night, but he added three hits and showed some hustle on the bases (even if he slid too late and was thrown out).

Wait, what?

For some reason, a lefty pitcher thought it’d be a good idea to throw something off-speed to Jordan Luplow. It didn’t work out for him.

What’s next

With the AL Central lead in hand, Cleveland returns home Friday to face the Reds and hopefully take the Ohio Cup. Zach Plesac and Wade Miley will face off at 7:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field.