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CLE@KC: Mendoza hurls six innings of two-run ball

KANSAS CITY -- Luis Mendoza came out of sick bay and is feeling much better, thank you. How much better?

"One-hundred percent," Mendoza said.

Mendoza pitched six-plus innings and treated a Fireworks Friday night crowd of 22,805 to a 6-3 Royals victory over the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium.

The big right-hander had gone five straight starts since Aug. 17 without a personal win along with one loss and four no-decisions, although the Royals won three of those games. Finally, though, he improved his record to 8-9 as the Royals earned their third straight victory.

Mendoza had a two-day delay to his start because of a case of strep throat.

"He recovered nicely," Yost said. "His breaking ball was a little flat at times, but he had real good movement on his two-seamer. He got a lot of ground-ball outs to second base. It was funny because he'd get two quick outs and then get in trouble, but he pitched around it for the most part effectively."

Mendoza's greatest escape was the first inning. Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Kipnis each singled to start the game and were bunted into scoring position. But Mendoza struck out Carlos Santana.

"To strike him out was hard. He's a great hitter, and I just pitched around him a little bit and got him out," Mendoza said.

He walked Michael Brantley to load the bases, but got Travis Hafner to roll out to second baseman Irving Falu, one of six grounders that he fielded.

Mendoza had a 4-1 lead going into the seventh inning, but was pulled when Ezequiel Carrera led off with a bunt single.

"The lineup was turning back around and we're in the seventh," Yost said. "Their whole lineup is left-handed except for the two switch-hitters hitting three and four and we decided we'd start using our lefties against them," Yost said.

The first lefty, Tim Collins, had some trouble, though. He hit Choo with a pitch and, after getting two outs, he gave up a two-run single to Santana for a 4-3 score.

But the Royals had a breakthrough against the Indians' bullpen in the eighth. After singles by Mike Moustakas and Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly. Jeff Francoeur, on first after a forceout, raced home as Brayan Pena drilled a double past third base.

Pena, filling in for banged-up catcher Salvador Perez, had two hits and two RBIs.

"I do my extra work to keep sharp because everybody knows this is Salvy's team, so I just try to give him a day off or something like that, and fit in and do my job," Pena said.

That inning set things up nicely for closer Greg Holland.

"We've got all the confidence in the world in Holland, but any time you can make it a two-run save instead of a one-run save, it just takes a lot of pressure off the defense and Holly," Hosmer said. "It was just a big insurance run and Pena after that was a huge knock to get that three-run save for Holland."

Holland, appearing in a third straight game, got three outs on seven pitches for his 15th save.

"Fortunately, the last two outings have been quick so I feel pretty good right now. Especially when you're winning, you always feel good," Holland said.

There was a bit of a flap before the Royals' eighth ended when Tribe lefty Scott Maine drilled David Lough with a pitch and home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom issued a warning to both benches. One batter on each team had been hit earlier.

"That's the way things are nowadays in Major League Baseball," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I didn't think that they hit Choo on purpose. We certainly didn't hit that kid on purpose either, but the umpires nowadays are extra careful and they don't want things to get out of hand. We're not going to hit a guy on 3-0 with a runner on third, the game is still close. And if we're going to get back at them for hitting Choo, we're certainly not going pick David Lough to get even."

There was some history involved, going back to April 14 when Choo was drilled by Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez and the Tribe plunked Moustakas, stirring emotions. Both times the benches cleared, there was a minor fracas, and Acta and two of his players were ejected. Even so, Yost was surprised to see the warning.

"They hit [Alcides] Escobar [in the fifth], I don't think that was on purpose. We hit Choo, that definitely wasn't on purpose. If that is a retaliation for hitting Choo, that surprises me a little bit," Yost said.

Nothing more developed and all the Royals had left to do was toast Mendoza's good health. He'd come a long way since being stricken ill on Monday.

"I felt terrible, my whole body hurt," he said. "I just came here to the field and got something to feel better. And Tuesday I came in and started feeling better," he said.

Last Wednesday, the day he was scheduled to start, Mendoza came by the stadium to do some light throwing and then went home to rest.

"When I came to field Wednesday to see how my arm how felt, I thought I was going to feel weak, but my arm just stayed strong," he said.

As the Indians found out Friday night.

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