KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jason Kipnis had been mired in such a batting slump that the Indians second baseman had resorted to watching old film of himself, trying to discover what had changed in the past couple years.
He finally noticed a subtle, almost imperceptible difference in his hand position, so he rolled up a magazine and began mimicking his old swing in his hotel room. And while it felt a bit odd, and looked just as goofy, Kipnis nevertheless went to sleep feeling as if something had finally clicked.
Did it ever.
Kipnis proceeded to club four hits and drive in four runs Sunday, the big shot an inside-the-park homer in the ninth inning, to lead Cleveland’s 12-5 rout of the Kansas City Royals.
“Obviously every day I’ve been working to snap out of it. It’s been ugly to watch and worse to go out there,” said Kipnis, who is still hitting just .223 this season. “I came in with better spirits and said, ‘Let’s see where it goes from here.'”
Kipnis nearly went 5 for 5, but a baserunning mix-up by Melky Cabrera on his flyball in the second resulted in a fielder’s choice. Kipnis later had a pair of singles and a double before the homer.
“He swung the bat very well,” Indians manager Terry Francona said, “and I’ll tell you what, what a lift that would give us. He’s showed flashes, but if he could get hot, what a lift it would be.”
Shane Bieber (8-2) allowed four runs for Cleveland — on homers by Whit Merrifield, Salvador Perez and Lucas Duda. He departed after allowing six hits and striking out seven in 5 1/3 innings, but it was still enough for the AL Central-leading Indians to improve to 10-1 when facing a series sweep.
Right-hander Jorge Lopez (0-4) allowed five runs, all in the fourth inning, on five hits and three walks for Kansas City. He was lifted after throwing 79 pitches in just four innings.
“You give a chance to your guys when you go deep in a game and I couldn’t do it today. I need to get better for sure,” Lopez said. “We’ll see about going forward from this start.”
The Royals, who had snapped their own five-game skid Friday night, looked as if they’d keep their momentum going when Merrifield took Bieber deep to left field leading off the game.
It was his fifth career leadoff homer and second this year.
But the Indians answered with their big fourth inning, when six consecutive batters reached on four hits and a pair of walks. And after Perez went deep in the bottom half, the Indians added two more runs on Francisco Lindor’s two-out single in the sixth to add to their cushion.
Edwin Encarnacion continued the offensive outburst — which came after the Indians were held to one run on five hits on Saturday night — when he took Royals reliever Jake Newberry deep in the eighth.
“It’s been a tough trip for a lot of guys, but they’re going to be OK,” Francona said. “We needed to find a way today, whether it was ugly or whatever, and we did that.”
O’HEARN IN LF
Royals 1B/DH Ryan O’Hearn got the start in left field, the first time he’s played the outfield in the big leagues. O’Hearn played 13 games there at Triple-A Omaha this season, and manager Ned Yost said the move was designed to “find a way to keep his bat in there.”
Indians: RHP Cody Anderson (Tommy John surgery) struck out two in a scoreless inning Saturday night for the club’s Arizona League team. It was his first game since September 2016. “No red flags or anything,” Francona said. … OF Brandon Guyer is getting a couple days off after getting hit where the foot meets the ankle, or as Francona called it, the “fankle.”
Royals: RHP Ian Kennedy (left oblique strain) threw 60 pitches last Friday without any problems and expects to make a rehab start Wednesday, Yost said. … OF Jorge Soler (fractured left toe) will begin a rehab assignment in the next couple of days, but even then he is unlikely to play in the outfield. “I don’t think so,” Yost said. “DH him some, give him some at-bats, make sure he’s ready to go for spring training, which he will be.”
The Indians and Royals will both take Monday off before beginning their next series. Cleveland is back home to face Minnesota with Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.55 ERA) on the mound, and Kansas City begins a five-game trip to Detroit and Baltimore with Jakob Junis (6-12, 4.70 ERA) getting the first start.