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CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians have surged to the top of the AL Central. Orlando Cabrera believes they just might stay there.
“It seems like nobody else wants it in this division, so we’re going to take it,” the Indians second baseman said. “Why not, right?
Cabrera hit a three-run double in the first inning to make things easier for Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin and the first-place and fast-starting Indians won their ninth straight at home, 7-2 Wednesday night over the slumping Kansas City Royals.
Cabrera’s bases-loaded double off Jeff Francis (0-3) helped the Indians jump to a 5-0 lead. That was all the support Tomlin (4-0) would need in sending Kansas City to its fifth straight loss.
Meanwhile, the Indians have the AL’s best record as well as their longest winning streak at Progressive Field since 2005. Cleveland hasn’t won 10 in a row at home since 1996, and Cabrera said it’s vital for the Indians’ future that they make the most of being home.
“It gives us a sense of security when we’re not playing good on the road,” said Cabrera, signed by the Indians as a free agent in February. “Come back home and establish ourselves as a team that doesn’t lose here. Guys hit the ball well here and we pitch really well, too.
“Hey, we got to take what we can get, and if that’s what it takes to win every game here, we will.”
Tomlin gave up solo homers to Jeff Francoeur and Mike Aviles in the second, but blanked Kansas City over the next four. The right-hander allowed five hits and has gone at least five innings in each of his first 17 appearances in the majors — a club record.
Kansas City’s Alex Gordon was hitless in three at-bats, ending his hitting streak at 19 games. First baseman Shelley Duncan robbed him of a hit in the third with a leaping grab.
The Royals have lost eight of 10 since a 10-4 start, and have fallen to .500.
“You don’t want to get to 12-12 the way we did,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “Not after being 10-4. We’re still hitting the ball hard, but right at people. When you’re going good, you find the holes. When you’re not, they find the gloves.”
Every player in Cleveland’s starting lineup got at least one hit. It doesn’t seem to matter who manager Manny Acta pencils in, all the Indians are producing, which is perhaps the biggest reason they’ve been baseball’s biggest surprise in April.
Scoring early has been a key to the Indians’ strong start. They scored five times in the first off Francis, who needed 39 pitches to get three outs.
Francis retired Grady Sizemore leading off but then gave up four straight singles, the last an RBI blooper by Travis Hafner. Cabrera followed with his three-run double, which center fielder Jarrod Dyson narrowly missed with a diving try in the gap in left-center.
One out later, Jack Hannahan’s single made it 5-0 and Francis gave up another single — the Indians’ sixth of the inning — before getting Sizemore again, this time on a grounder to second.
The Royals cut it to 5-2 in the second on the homers by Francoeur and Aviles. Francoeur’s leadoff shot into the left-field bleachers extended his hitting streak to 16 games, tying his career-best.
But Kansas City’s hitters didn’t threaten again against Tomlin, who doesn’t have overpowering stuff but throws strikes and knows how to get outs.
Of his 100 pitches, only 27 were out of the strike zone.
“He’s a guy who keeps it simple,” Acta said. “He throws strikes. He changes speed and you go from there. You saw that second inning, they hit a couple of balls out. He goes after guys and most of the time you are going to get the best out of a hitter when you do that.”
The Indians tacked on an unearned run in the third to make it 6-2 and added another in the sixth on a passed ball.
Francis gave up a leadoff double in the fourth, and the 30-year-old, signed by KC as a free agent in January after six seasons with Colorado, was pulled by manager Ned Yost. Francis allowed five runs and 10 hits in three innings and dropped to 0-6 in 11 starts since July 30.
NOTES: Longtime fan John Adams, who has been pounding a large bass drum in the outfield bleachers at Indians games since the 1970s, attended his 3,000th game. The club will honor Adams and his milestone during pregame ceremonies on Saturday. ... The Royals and Indians are the respective second and third youngest teams in the majors. Kansas City’s average age on its 40-man roster is 26.73, and Cleveland is tied with Florida at 27.03. ... Aviles’ homer gave him 14 hits, 10 for extra bases. ... With Tomlin at 4-0 and Justin Masterson at 5-0, the Indians have two pitchers with at least 4-0 records since Greg Swindell and Tom Candiotti did it in 1988. ... Gordon’s hitting streak was the AL’s longest this season.