KANSAS CITY -- The struggling Royals were good for what was ailing the Indians. No, the Tribe couldn't prevent its unsightly recent trend of giving up an early lead from popping up again Friday. And no, the performance of the bullpen wasn't exactly inspiring.
But the Indians did find a way to recover this time around, and the result was a 6-5 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. "We came out on top," a relieved manager Eric Wedge said. "That's the bottom line." This, though, was a line that zigged and zagged and would have zapped Wedge's Indians, if not for the clutchest of hits from shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Before the Indians could earn their first win in three games and hand the Royals their 11th straight taste of defeat and before that big hit could occur, the Tribe once again had to watch a lead go by the wayside. The lead, in this case, was of the 3-0 variety, and it was earned against left-hander Mark Redman, whom the Indians had no trouble getting to in the first inning with Peralta's RBI single and Eduardo Perez's sacrifice fly. Once Ronnie Belliard chipped in with an RBI single in the fourth, left-hander Cliff Lee had a nice little cushion to work with. Just not for long. After making it through the first five innings without incident, save for an inordinate number of foul balls off the Royals' bats, Lee's tidy little outing took a rough turn in the sixth. Two singles from Mike Sweeney and Reggie Sanders set up a sac fly from Emil Brown, an RBI single for Angel Berroa and another sac fly to Shane Costa that tied the game at 3. "They finally caught up with me that inning," Lee said of the Royals. "I felt I was still making my pitches, but they kept fighting pitches off." Once the score was tied, Lee's night was done. He needed 102 pitches to get through his 5 2/3 innings of work. "He had to work hard out there," Wedge said. "He threw well, but they battled him equally." A big out notched by reliever Danny Graves ended the sixth, but this battle had just begun. The Indians didn't take long to respond to the three spot. In the top of the seventh, they loaded the bases with two outs against reliever Elmer Dessens, with Grady Sizemore singling to end a nine-pitch at-bat that drew raves from Wedge, and Jason Michaels walking. That brought up Peralta, who had been struggling on this road trip with five hits in 29 at-bats coming into the game. Peralta had been studying the at-bats of Sizemore and Michaels, so he figured Dessens might come at him with an inside fastball. When Dessens did, Peralta ripped a line drive over the head of third baseman Mark Teahen and down the left-field line for a bases-clearing double that made it 6-3. "I thought [Teahen] was going to get it," Peralta said. "It was real close. But he didn't get a good jump on it." Peralta is no stranger to coming through in such situations. Last season, he hit .302 with 54 RBIs with runners in scoring position and .313 with runners in scoring position and two out. "He doesn't get caught in the moment," Wedge said of Peralta. "He's had a great deal of success with runners in scoring position, as well as late in the game." Now the question was how much success the Indians would have late in this game. While they never did completely relinquish that 6-3 lead, they certainly came close. Setup man Guillermo Mota needed 41 pitches to get through the seventh and eighth innings, in which the Royals stranded three runners. And things got really hairy in the ninth, when closer Bob Wickman came on to try to earn his fourth save in four tries this season. Immediately, Wickman, pitching for just the second time in the last 12 days, was under the gun when leadoff man Mark Grudzielanek singled. Sweeney then lofted a long fly ball to left that looked headed out of the park for a two-run homer, until Michaels hauled it in. But Michaels couldn't keep his glove on the ball, and it flung back into the field of play, giving Sweeney a long double. Consecutive sac flies from Sanders and Brown suddenly made it a 6-5 ballgame, and the Indians were holding on for dear life. But Wickman got Teahan to strike out looking to end the game. "Wicky got the job done," Wedge said. "He knows how to handle situations." After two days of blown leads which led to bad losses, the Indians, as a whole, finally showed they can handle the late-inning crunch, as well.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.