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Bruce Chen boosts Royals to victory over Indians

August 29, 2011

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— After his bullpen failed to hold late leads on consecutive nights, Kansas City manager Ned Yost knew his team needed a spark.

Bruce Chen provided it by holding Cleveland to one run in 71⁄3 innings in Sunday’s 2-1 victory.

“Bruce really picked us up big time,” Yost said. “We needed Bruce to do that, to get us into the eighth inning. He did that.”

Chen (10-5) overcame a shaky first inning to win his career-high fifth straight start. Chen allowed the first four batters of the game to reach base and walked Carlos Santana with the bases loaded to force in Cleveland’s only run.

Yost went to his bullpen, which let games get away Friday and Saturday, but the relievers came through this time. Greg Holland retired both batters he faced in the eighth, while Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth for his 24th save.

The Royals head to Detroit, where they will open a three-game series today, on a positive note.

“We could have had all three of them,” Yost said. “The first two games were hard losses to take, but it shows you the resiliency of this team. They show up to play every day and battle and stay after it. That is a great sign.”

Mike Moustakas’ RBI single broke a 1-1 tie in the third for the Royals, who loaded the bases with nobody out in the first, but scored only one run.

Justin Masterson (10-8) allowed two runs in six innings and lost for the first time since July 24.

Chen made the third-inning lead stand up by changing speeds, hitting his spots and confusing the young hitters in Cleveland’s lineup, which was missing five regulars because of injuries.

“I am feeling good,” Chen said. “I feel like I am throwing my pitches really well. It was a very good day for us.”

The left-hander, who allowed five hits, is 4-0 in his last five starts against the Indians.

“They have a very good team,” Chen said. “They have a winning record and they are fighting for a playoff spot, but we are not done. Hopefully we can get on a roll and win some ballgames in September.”

Both teams loaded the bases with nobody out in the first, but only scored one run. A single by Alex Gordon, a walk to Melky Cabrera and a single by Billy Butler loaded the bases for Kansas City. After Eric Hosmer flied out, Jeff Francoeur hit into a force play, scoring Gordon.

Cleveland’s first inning followed the same pattern. Singles by Ezequiel Carrera, Jason Donald and Asdrubal Cabrera loaded the bases before Santana walked on four pitches to force in a run. Shelley Duncan, swinging at the first pitch, fouled out and Kosuke Fukudome tapped into a pitcher-to-home-to-first double play.

“The first inning killed us,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “We let him off the hook right there. That’s on us.”

The Indians threatened in the eighth when Francoeur dropped a fly ball for an error to start the inning. Holland entered the game with one out, striking out pinch-hitter Jim Thome and getting Asdrubal Cabrera, who hit the game-winning home run Saturday, to fly out.

“Knock on wood, (Holland) has been solid all year long,” Yost said. “He hasn’t hit a hiccup yet.”

The game was delayed briefly in the fifth inning when a woman seated near the Indians dugout was struck in the head by a line drive hit by Hosmer. The woman was given medical attention and walked with assistance to a first aid station.

NOTES: Royals SS Alcides Escobar snapped an 0 for 22 skid with an infield hit in the fifth. Rookie C Salvador Perez got the day off. The Royals begin a four-game in Detroit on Monday night. RHP Luke Hochevar (8-10, 4.91) starts the opener. He got a no-decision in his last start against Toronto when he gave up a three-run homer to Jose Bautista. ... The Indians open a four-game series at home with Oakland on Monday night. LHP David Huff (1-2, 2.70) will start for Cleveland. He allowed five runs in 21⁄3 innings against Detroit in his last start.

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