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CLE@KC: Escobar's double gives Royals an early lead

KANSAS CITY -- Rookie Will Smith got his first Major League victory at Cleveland, so he was happy to welcome the Indians to Kansas City for another pleasant occasion. For Smith, not the Indians.

Smith pitched seven innings and earned his sixth victory as the Royals prevailed, 5-3, before a Fan Appreciation Night crowd of 24,304 at Kauffman Stadium on a chilly Saturday evening. Many fans made immediate use of the fleece blankets that were handed out as they entered the ballpark.

This was the Royals' fourth straight victory of the homestand that ends on Sunday. It was also their seventh straight win over the Indians, their longest streak against the Tribe since nine in a row in 1973.

"I know I beat 'em for my first victory but they're just like any other team," Smith said. "They're Major League hitters, they're good hitters. You still have to execute your plan, attack 'em, put up zeroes and give your team a chance to win."

That he did, putting up six zeroes. The only exception was the fifth inning when Cord Phelps belted a two-run homer for a 2-2 tie.

The Royals retaliated immediately in their half and got a big break that helped them to a three-run inning.

Two walks and Jeff Francoeur's one-out single loaded the bases and got Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez excused for the evening. Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall snagged Eric Hosmer's hopper and threw home for a force-out but catcher Carlos Santana's foot was off the plate, apparently by scant inches, and Alex Gordon was ruled safe. That opened the door for a sacrifice fly by Brayan Pena and Irving Falu's RBI single that gave the Royals a 5-2 lead.

Indians manager Manny Acta disputed plate umpire Lance Barksdale's call, which cost his team the second out.

"The video clearly shows that he blew the call," Acta said. "He was on the plate, and the momentum after he caught the ball on the plate took him off. But he was on the plate when he caught it. When it rains, it pours."

Royals manager Ned Yost hadn't seen the replay or the play when it actually happened, for that matter.

"I didn't see it, to be honest with you. I'm glad the umpire was on it," Yost said.

Smith followed that with two more scoreless innings.

"That enabled Will to go out in the sixth and the seventh to get through it with a little leeway, a little breathing room and that's always important," Yost said.

After Smith left, the Indians tightened the score to 5-3 in the eighth inning against Aaron Crow when center fielder Jason Bourgeois dropped a long fly ball, letting in an unearned run. Francoeur saved another run with a diving catch of Russ Canzler's liner.

With closer Greg Holland getting a night off after three straight appearances, Kelviin Herrera came in to get the save and he shared it with right fielder Francoeur. With one out, Shin-Soo Choo lined a hit to deep right field but Francoeur quickly grabbed the ball and threw him out at second base.

"That was the best pitch in the inning," Herrera said.

Yost didn't argue.

"That throw that he made -- to catch it, wheel and throw accurately to get Choo was a phenomenal play," Yost said. "And that's a huge play because that shifts momentum in that inning. [If] they've got Choo on base, they've got their three best hitters coming up."

Even though the Indians were down by two runs, Yost wasn't surprised that Choo chugged onto second base.

"That's a ball that you would gamble and run on. A guy like Choo is not thinking that Frenchy's going to make a play like that," Yost said. "That wasn't even an above-average play, that was a phenomenal play that he pulled out of his back pocket."

That was the second out and, after issuing a walk, Herrera struck out Santana to record his second save.

The assist was Francoeur's 19th and the Royals' 45th outfield assist this season, both Major League highs.

There were some other fine moments for the Royals.

Billy Butler notched his 100th RBI, a personal milestone as he became the first Royal to reach the century mark since Carlos Beltran in 2003.

"I said last year Billy was a 30 [home run], 100 RBI guy," Yost said. "I think Billy's capable of being a huge run-producer in the American League, a guy that's capable of having 120, 130 RBIs every year. He just keeps getting better and better."

Butler could reach the 30 mark, too, with 11 games left.

"I've got 27 now so it's all in the ballpark, let's put it that way," he said.

Also, catcher Brayan Pena, on a drive to the right-center gap in the fourth inning, rambled to his first Major League triple after 933 plate appearances in 328 games.

"I think a parachute came out of his pocket about when he hit shortstop because he slowed way down at that point," Yost said. "But that was a good gamble."

There were no outs at the time but Pena was stranded at third.

Still, the Royals went on to win for the ninth time in their last 14 games.

"We're clicking on all cylinders," Butler said.

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