Cleveland Matt LaPorta’s big swing in the ninth inning wasn’t the only drama from the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
After LaPorta’s two-out, three-run homer beat the Kansas City Royals, 5-2, to move Cleveland within 1 1/2 games of the AL Central lead, the Colorado Rockies announced that they traded right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians for four minor-leaguers.
“We’re still struggling offensively, but this was a big win,” Indians manager Manny Acta said, refusing to comment on trades after Cleveland’s 12th home win its last at bat.
The Indians, who had no word about Jimenez, did announce that they dealt veteran infielder Orlando Cabrera to San Francisco for minor-league outfielder Thomas Neal.
LaPorta connected off Royals closer Joakim Soria (5-4) on a 1-1 pitch. It was Soria’s sixth blown save in 25 changes.
“It was a pretty exciting high,” said LaPorta, the key piece in another trade deadline deal by Cleveland in 2008 when they shipped All-Star lefty CC Sabathia to Milwaukee.
“Those people who have been booing (LaPorta) are cheering tonight,” Acta said. “We need him big time. He’s still developing, though.”
LaPorta is hitting just .239 with 10 homers and 38 RBIs.
“These kids are going for this, trying to win however they can,” Acta said. “We’re still struggling offensively, but don’t give up.
“I’m going to go out to the scoreboard and put a 9 on the first inning to see if that will help.”
Another dramatic rally in the ninth gave the win to Tony Sipp (6-2), who pitched the top half.
Soria hit Asdrubal Cabrera in the right foot with a pitch and Travis Hafner bounced into a forceout and was replaced by pinch runner Orlando Cabrera. Carlos Santana doubled down the third-base line to put runners on second and third.
“This team has been really good at the end of games, but it’s not like I was afraid of them,” Soria said. “I tried to make my best pitches and they hit them.”
Kosuke Fukudome, acquired for two minor-leaguers on Thursday from the Chicago Cubs, hit a sacrifice fly to tie it at 2 before Lonnie Chisenhall walked and LaPorta lined a shot just over the wall in left.
“I just started running,” LaPorta said, unaware it was a homer until told by first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr.
Chris Getz singled home the go-ahead run in the ninth for Kansas City.
Indians starter Justin Masterson left after yielding a leadoff single to Jeff Francoeur in the ninth after Cleveland tied it in the eighth.
Francoeur stole second, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Moustakas and one out later scored on Getz’s single off Sipp.
Cleveland, hitless into the fifth, scored in the eighth to tie it at 1. Chisenhall drew a 12-pitch walk from Tim Collins, moved up on a passed ball and scored on Michael Brantley’s two-out ground single to right off Aaron Crow on a full count. Chisenhall slid in ahead of the tag by catcher Brayan Pena, who entered in the sixth when Matt Treanor left with a concussion after tagging out Matt LaPorta trying to score.
The Indians had not scored since getting an unearned run in the first inning Wednesday, when they were no-hit by Ervin Santana of the Los Angeles Angels.
Royals starter Felipe Paulino gave up four hits over six innings. The right-hander walked two and struck out four, including the side in the first inning on 15 pitches.
Kansas City took a quick 1-0 lead. Alex Gordon opened the game with a walk, went to third on a double by Melky Cabrera and scored on a one-out groundout to second by Eric Hosmer.
Treanor was hurt keeping it scoreless in the sixth. LaPorta doubled and took third on a sharp single to center by No. 9 hitter Ezequiel Carrera.
LaPorta was thrown out trying to score on a fly ball to left by Brantley. Alex Gordon’s throw home was in time and LaPorta bowled over Treanor at the plate. He hung on to the ball, but laid motionless, face down in the dirt. Trainers wiped blood from his face and Trainor walked to the dugout.
“I hope he’s OK,” said LaPorta, who called the Royals clubhouse to check on Treanor, who had been taken to a hospital for a CT scan and will be placed on the seven-day concussion list.
It was yet another tough-luck outing for Masterson, 3-6 since May 12. The right-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of his last 11 starts since June 8.
He didn’t get much offense, but rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis made a fine play to start a nifty double play in the sixth. Kipnis snagged Moustakas’ sharp grounder with a dive toward first base. He spun and threw to shortstop Cabrera, who came across the bag and threw to first to complete the inning-ending gem.