CLEVELAND (AP) – As Omar Infante prepared for a postgame TV interview, teammate Salvador Perez dumped a bucket of Gatorade over his head, soaking Kansas City’s second baseman to the bone.
Well, that finally cooled him off.
Infante drove in a career-high seven runs and the Royals overcame some early sloppiness for an 8-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night.
A veteran infielder making his first start in 11 days, Infante hit a three-run homer in the second inning off Corey Kluber (8-14), added a two-run double in the fifth after the Indians pulled their ace and hit a two-run single in the seventh.
Infante also had a sacrifice and nearly matched the offensive output of teammate Mike Moustakas, who set a team record with nine RBIs on Saturday against Baltimore. Needing a triple to hit for the cycle, Infante lined out to center field in the ninth.
Afterward, he treated his big night like it was nothing unusual.
“I’m grateful for the chance to play,” Infante said. “It felt good.”
Yordana Ventura (12-8) went five innings, retiring struggling All-Star Jason Kipnis with the bases loaded to end the fifth as the AL Central-leading Royals, who had three errors in the first three innings and four overall, split the four-game series. Kansas City won for just the fourth time in 13 games.
Infante has hit two homers this season – both in Cleveland.
“I get lucky in this park,” he said, laughing. “I put some good swings on the ball here.”
The Indians didn’t make up any more ground in the wild-card race. They came in trailing Houston by four games for the second spot.
Cleveland loaded the bases in the ninth, prompting Royals manager Ned Yost to bring in closer Greg Holland, who gave up a sacrifice fly but got his 32nd save.
Kluber started for the first time since Aug. 29 after being sidelined with a hamstring injury. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner allowed two runs and five hits in four innings, settling in after Infante’s homer.
But as soon as Kluber left, the Royals pounced on left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett, who gave up Eric Hosmer’s RBI double that put Kansas City up 4-2. Jeff Manship came on for Cleveland but walked Alex Rios, and Infante followed with his double to make it 6-2.
Infante’s second double pushed Kansas City’s lead to 8-3 in the seventh.
“We just made some mistakes to Infante tonight,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “When we got it where we needed to we were OK, but when we didn’t he killed us.”
With a large lead in the division, the Royals have been on cruise control lately and not playing as well as they did earlier in the season.
They didn’t start out smoothly in the series finale, committing three errors – two on pretty routine grounders – in the first three innings.
“We didn’t play great baseball tonight,” Yost said. “We swung the bats, but defensively we had some lapses. We’ve got to get this little streak turned around and get back to playing good baseball.”
Kluber’s return was surprisingly short.
On Wednesday, Francona joked that he might limit the right-hander to “140-150” pitches, but wound up pulling Kluber after 61.
Infante’s second homer of the season gave the Royals a 3-0 lead in the second.
Salvador Perez led off with a routine grounder, but reached safely on third baseman Giovanny Urshela’s throwing error. Rios singled before Infante turned on a 1-0 fastball, driving it onto the home run porch in left. His other homer came in Cleveland on July 27.
Hosmer went 1 for 5 but is batting .359 (23 for 64) with 20 RBIs this season against the Indians.
Perez was struck on the right shoulder by a wicked foul tip off Urshela’s bat in the fourth inning. Kansas City’s All-Star catcher stayed in the game, but later took a shot off the chest protector and was replaced in the ninth.
“It might have killed you and me, but he’s a tough guy,” Yost said.
Royals OF Lorenzo Cain got the night off after going 0 for 4 on Wednesday. He’s been slowed by an assortment of nagging injuries, and those coupled with a .192 career average against Kluber kept Cain on the bench.
Royals: RHP Johnny Cueto has dropped five straight starts for the first time in his career. He’ll start the series opener in Detroit. The first inning has been an issue for Cueto, who has been touched for a combined seven runs and 10 hits in the first over his past three outings.
Indians: RHP Cody Anderson opens a three-game series against the White Sox. He’s won back-to-back starts for the first time after defeating Detroit in his previous outing.
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