CLEVELAND – Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley hit two-run homers, powering the Cleveland Indians over the Kansas City Royals 4-3 Monday night when a fearless squirrel ran around Progressive Field and provided some extra entertainment.
Kipnis connected in the sixth inning off Jeremy Guthrie (2-1), overcoming a 3-2 deficit. Brantley provided Cleveland a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
Zach McAllister (3-0) gave up six hits and overcame three errors – one on his errant throw. Marc Rzepczynski and Cody Allen pitched a hitless inning each, and closer John Axford worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save.
Alex Gordon and Omar Infante each had two of the Royals’ six hits.
Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi went hitless in four at-bats in his season debut. He missed Cleveland’s first 18 games with a broken rib.
Nick Swisher led off the sixth with his second double, and Kipnis followed with his third homer, a drive into the seats in right-center. Kipnis is 8 of 13 (.615) with two homers and six RBIs off Guthrie, who except for the home runs pitched effectively for 6 1-3 innings.
The game was momentarily delayed in the second inning when a squirrel ran onto the field. Swisher motioned for the critter to run to him, but it darted past and into the outfield grass. The squirrel was directed inside the Royals bullpen by members of the grounds crew, but the slippery rodent escaped and returned for another scamper to the delight of the crowd of 10,789. The pesky intruder hung around for another inning before it was shooed into the Indians’ center-field bullpen.
The squirrel perched on a ledge for several minutes before jumping the wall into the Heritage Park monument area.
Helped by McAllister’s throwing error, the Royals scored three runs in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead.
Mike Moustakas doubled to open the inning and scored when diving center fielder Michael Bourn couldn’t squeeze a sinking liner by Alcides Escobar. Jarrod Dyson followed with a bunt toward third that McAllister fielded cleanly before throwing wildly past first, allowing Escobar to score. One out later, Infante’s RBI single put the Royals in front.
Brantley connected in the fourth for his team-leading fourth homer, and second in two days.
Kipnis led off with a double, and with one out, Brantley drove a 2-1 pitch from Guthrie over the wall in right. Brantley only hit 10 homers last season, and manager Terry Francona believes the 26-year-old could develop into a more potent power hitter because “he gives himself a chance every at-bat.”