Kipnis hits walk-off homer in 10th as Indians edge Royals
By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Jason Kipnis spun as he approached home plate and deftly avoided being soaked with ice water by teammate Francisco Lindor.
Right now, Kipnis and the Indians are making all the right moves.
Kipnis homered leading off the 10th inning as Cleveland continued its impressive June with a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night in a game delayed 2 hours, 23 minutes by rain.
Cleveland’s second baseman connected on a 1-0 pitch from Wily Peralta (2-4), driving it into the right-field seats for his sixth homer — and first walk-off since September.
As the ball sailed into the nearly empty stands, Kipnis dropped his bat, circled the bases and pivoted near the plate to duck Lindor’s attempt at a face-first Gatorade bath.
“It’s an awesome feeling. It never gets old,” Kipnis said. “Getting a hit never gets old. Hitting a home run never gets old. To do it all as a walk-off, it’s a thrill, it’s a rush, to look back at all your teammates running out to home plate. It really is one of the better rushes in the game.”
The Indians have won four straight, nine of 11, 14 of 19 and are an AL-best 15-6 this month.
Kipnis has been a big part of Cleveland’s early-summer surge. He’s batting .471 with four homers and 14 RBIs in his past nine games, and the jump in his stats came after Kipnis noticed something about the positioning of his hands while watching video.
He’s figured things out, and so have the Indians, who are a season-high eight games over .500.
Brad Hand (4-2) worked a perfect 10th as Indians manager Terry Francona was forced to use six pitchers because of the weather.
Indians rookie slugger Bobby Bradley, who delivered an RBI double in his first major league at-bat after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Sunday, put the Indians up in the sixth with a run-scoring double.
Whit Merrifield homered for the Royals, who sit at the bottom of the AL Central.
With the score tied 1-1 in sixth, José Ramírez walked with two outs before Bradley hit a liner that split center fielder Billy Hamilton and right fielder Merrifield, who cut the ball off with a soggy, sliding stop near the warning track.
But Kansas City’s relay was not in time to get Ramírez, and Bradley, who was leading the International League in homers, celebrated at second by raising his arms and motioning toward his teammates in the dugout.
Blanked for three innings before the rain stoppage by Royals starter Brad Keller, the Indians tied it 1-all shortly after play resumed on back-to-back doubles by Santana and Ramirez, who is again showing signs of emerging from a baffling batting slump.
Ramirez has hiked his average up to .217, a season-high but 100 points before his .317 clip in 2017.
“José looks like he’s starting to feel a little more like José,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Indians starter Adam Plutko didn’t give up a hit until the fourth, when Whit Merrifield led off with his 11th homer, a shot to left that barely crept over the 19-foot-high wall. Plutko got through the rest of the inning unscathed before the rain intensified and caused the lengthy delay.
“Just a good pitched game on both sides,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s too bad because (RHP Brad) Keller was really sharp. It’s too bad we couldn’t have lengthened him out with the stuff he had tonight.”
Indians outfielder Jake Bauers was scratched from the starting lineup after he rolled his left ankle shagging flies in batting practice. Francona said Bauers may get another days’ rest.
“I don’t know if he’ll play tomorrow,” Francona said. “If he can play tomorrow he will. I think we all thought it was really bad when it happened. He was laying out there. He’s gonna be OK.”
Merrifield became the first major leaguer to reach 100 hits this season, going 2 for 5. He led the majors with 192 hits in 2018. Over his last 13 games, Merrifield is batting .351 with five doubles, four homers and 13 runs.
Royals: 2B Adalberto Mondesi (right groin strain) is expected to come off the 10-day injured list when eligible on June 29. He was put on the shelf following Kansas City’s June 18 game in Seattle.
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger will throw a “full-fledged bullpen” Tuesday, a final hurdle before he’s activated from the injured list with a sprained ankle. Clevinger is scheduled to start Friday at Baltimore.
Royals: RHP Glenn Sparkman (2-3, 3.62 ERA) allowed one run — a homer — and tossed a career-high seven innings in his previous start against Minnesota.
Indians: RHP Shane Bieber (6-3, 3.86 ERA) has won both career starts against Kansas City despite a 6.35 ERA. He’s 8-2 in 14 starts against AL Central opponents.
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