Indians beat Royals, clinch AL Central crown

Kansas City Royals’ Drew Butera catches the throw to home as Cleveland Indians’ Francisco Lindor scores Saturday in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Phil Long)

CLEVELAND — Francisco Lindor popped out of the chair at his clubhouse cubicle and asked a question before any reporter could get one off.

 

“You guys aren’t going to ask me about the streak, are you?” Cleveland’s jovial shortstop said, smiling.

Well, yes. Yours.

While the Indians’ historic winning streak is no longer the talk of baseball, Lindor is on a personal roll that is notable.

The All-Star set a club record with another extra-base hit and the Indians bounced back after having their AL record streak stopped at 22 by beating Kansas City 8-4 on Saturday to help them clinch the Central title.

Lindor’s double in the sixth off Jason Hammel (8-12) gave him an extra-base hit in 10 straight games — a club record and four shy of the major league mark of 14, shared by Chipper Jones (2006) and Paul Waner (1927).

“I didn’t even know that,” Lindor said. “I saw it on the scoreboard.”

Carlos Carrasco (16-6) pitched into the seventh as the Indians improved to 32-5 in their last 37 games.

With the win and Minnesota’s 7-2 loss to Toronto later Saturday, the Indians wrapped up the division title, their first step in getting back to the World Series.

Edwin Encarnacion hit his 35th homer for Cleveland.

Alex Gordon connected for the Royals, whose wild-card hopes took another blow. The Royals dropped 181/2 games behind the Indians.

“They’re all hot,” Hammel said. “There’s a good reason they’re going to be wrapping it up.”

Less than 24 hours after losing for the first time in three weeks, the defending AL champion Indians returned to the business of taking their second straight division crown and ninth since 1995.

Following Friday’s 4-3 loss, the Indians were warmly saluted by their fans, who gave them a rousing standing ovation in appreciation for the longest win streak baseball has seen since the 1916 New York Giants won 26 in a row.

No doubt the streak was fun, but it served as little more than a diversion for these Indians. They have one goal — a Series title — after losing in seven games last year to the Chicago Cubs.

The sensational Lindor is leading their charge.

With the Indians up by a run and with two on in the sixth, Lindor doubled high off the left-field wall to make 5-2. It was Lindor’s 40th double and broke a tie with Hal Trosky, who hit either a double, triple or homer in nine consecutive games for Cleveland in 1934.

“He’s using the whole field.” Francona said.

“And he’s strong enough and he’s got probably 1,500 at-bats under his belt. So, he knows the league and he understands situations more. That comes with experience. So he’s still every bit as dangerous. He just also is finding his hits, spraying the ball around.”

SWEET 16s

The Indians now have three pitchers — Kluber, Carrasco and Trevor Bauer — with 16 wins. They are the first Cleveland pitchers to get at least 16 in the same season since Early Wynn, Bob Lemon and Herb Score in 1956.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: All-Star C Salvador Perez (pulled muscle in right side) will likely be out until Tuesday when Kansas City opens a series in Toronto. He hurt himself taking a swing on Thursday.

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