KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Terrance Gore has carved out a most unusual big league career, one that’s had him on base more often than in the batter’s box.
In an era marked by big swingers and advanced analytics, Gore showed Sunday that a speed specialist can have plenty of value in the late innings.
The pinch-running extraordinaire stole a base and then scored on Hunter Dozier’s single in the ninth, lifting the Kansas City Royals over the Cleveland Indians 9-8 to complete a three-game sweep of the AL Central favorites.
Ryan O’Hearn led off the ninth with a walk against Brad Hand (0-1) and was replaced by Gore. He swiped second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Roberto Perez, and Dozier then singled to left for Kansas City’s first walk-off win of the season.
“I looked at (Hand) before I went out there and saw his pickoff move,” Gore said with a wide smile. “I found the key to go on. I found a good pitch to go on. I saw the ball trickle out to center, and me being aggressive. I went for third.”
The Royals were questioned in spring training about using a roster spot for an almost one-dimensional player, but manager Ned Yost said Sunday is good evidence for Gore’s value.
“My whole mindset was ‘Find a way on.’ If you get on, I felt like we were going to win,” Yost said. “We had Gore ready to pinch-run as early as the seventh.
“I don’t know which was more crucial, Dozier’s hit or O’Hearn’s walk,” Yost added. “Probably O’Hearn’s walk, because without that, Dozier’s hit was just a single.”
Gore has 31 stolen bases and taken just 25 at-bats in six major league seasons.
“That’s why they have Gore sitting over there,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
The Indians had not been swept in a road series of at least three games since May 4-6, 2018, at Yankee Stadium.
The Royals roughed up two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, who allowed 11 of his 18 batters to reach base safely. He gave up six runs, six hits and a career-most five walks in just 2 2/3 innings. The five walks doubled Kluber’s season total — he didn’t walk more than three batters in any game in 2018.
“He started getting under some pitches,” Francona said. “I know he knew it, but he had a hard time self-correcting. He just hasn’t gotten to the point yet where he’s a consistent Kluber. He will, and we’ll all be thrilled. It’s still a work in progress. Even when your last name’s Kluber, sometimes it’s still a work in progress.”
Royals starter Jakob Junis gave up five runs and eight hits through 6 1/3 innings.
Lucas Duda, Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler homered for Kansas City. Duda had two hits and four RBIs.
Leonys Martin hit his second leadoff homer in five days for Cleveland during a three-run first inning. Martin had three hits, and Jake Bauers had two hits, including a tying two-run single to cap a three-run rally in the seventh.
Wily Peralta (1-1) pitched the top of the ninth.
Indians: SS Francisco Lindor left to join Triple-A Columbus in Louisville for a rehab assignment. Francona said before Sunday’s game that Cleveland wanted to “give him one more day of back-to-back-to-back.” Lindor has not played this season, due to a right calf strain and a left ankle sprain.
Royals: CF Billy Hamilton was not in the starting lineup, but manager Ned Yost said he “absolutely would be available” to play defense if necessary, but probably not to pinch run. He has a mild MCL sprain and a bone bruise on his left knee suffered when he crashed into the wall Thursday. Hamilton did not play.
The Indians selected the contract of OF Carlos Gonzalez from Triple-A Columbus. He batted third and went 1 for 5.
In a corresponding move, RHP Jefry Rodriguez was optioned to Columbus. Indians IF Brad Miller said he was designated for assignment, but the club did not announce it officially, or mention a corresponding move.
Indians RHP Trevor Bauer (1-1, 2.29 ERA) will face Seattle’s Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 4.15 ERA) when the Indians open a three-game series.