Kansas City, Mo. Luis Mendoza was the best pitcher in the Pacific Coast League last season. There were doubts if he could parlay that success into the major leagues.
He entered this season with a 6-9 record and 7.36 ERA in 38 games in the majors.
The Kansas City Royals, however, have stuck with the 28-year-old right-hander and are beginning to reap the benefits.
Mendoza pitched into the eighth inning, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson stroked two hits each and drove in a run as the Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 5-2 on Wednesday night.
“You can’t give up on starting pitching,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It was the Pacific Coast League, but he was the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year last year. He went through the entire year as the best pitcher in that league in a hitter’s league. So we knew it was there. We knew he had to get his feet underneath him. The more comfortable he got, we felt the better off he would be both for himself and for us. So far that’s shown to be true.”
The Royals, who have the worst record in the American League (42-61), won consecutive games for the first time since June 27-29.
Mendoza (5-7) limited the Indians to two runs and four hits, only one after the fourth inning, and went 7 1-3 innings to pick up the victory.
“A very, very good outing,” Yost said. “He commanded his stuff real well, mixed in his breaking ball good and got us into the eighth inning with very little damage done against us. He was on the attack and kept his pitch count down. He threw an excellent ball game. He had done his job. We didn’t want to take any chance of anything building up.”
Mendoza, who was 1-3 in his four previous starts, did not throw more than 11 pitches in an inning except for the third when he threw 25.
“My teammates gave me some early runs,” Mendoza said. “I’m just happy with this start. That was a good challenge to face a lot of lefties, eight lefties.
“I used the changeup a lot. This time I just tried to throw strike one and get an out as quick as I can, stay aggressive.”
The Royals jumped to a 4-0 lead after two innings.
Alcides Escobar walked with one out and stopped at second on Cain’s single. On a double steal, catcher Carlos Santana threw the ball into left field, allowing Escobar to score and Cain to take third. Cain, who is hitting .313 since coming off the disabled list, wound up scoring on a groundout by Billy Butler.
In the second inning, Chris Getz walked, stole second and scored on Dyson’s single to center. Dyson stole second and scored on Alex Gordon’s major league-leading 37th double.
“My whole objective is to have great at-bats,” said Dyson, who is 5-for-7 with three extra-base hits in the first two games of this series. “I go to the plate looking for one pitch and that’s the fastball and when I get it I just try to jump on it.”
Santana homered in the fourth for the first Indians run.
Jose Mijares replaced Mendoza with one out in the eighth after a double by Jack Hannahan, Mijares hit Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch and gave up a run-producing single to Asdrubal Cabrera.
“Mendoza pitched inside,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He beat us inside and he had that curveball. He back-doored us with that then busted us inside. He threw the ball well.”
Greg Holland, who replaced Jonathan Broxton as the closer after he was traded Tuesday to Cincinnati, worked a spotless ninth for his first save since Sept. 25.
Indians rookie right-hander Zach McAllister (4-3) gave up five runs, five hits and two walks in six innings. The Royals stole four bases off McAllister, who has allowed nine stolen bases without a runner being caught in his 11 starts.
Notes: The Indians placed DH Travis Hafner on the paternity list Wednesday and recalled IF-OF Vinny Rottino from Triple-A Columbus. The Indians claimed Rottino on waivers June 27 from the New York Mets. ... Indians RHP Corey Kluber will make his first big league start Thursday against the Indians. He had an 8.31 ERA in three Cleveland relief appearances last September in his only prior big league experience. .The Royals recalled RHP Jeremy Jeffress from Triple-A Omaha. .Royals LHP Bruce Chen, who starts Thursday, has won six of his past seven decisions against the Indians.