CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber was handed a big lead early in the game and the rest was simple.
Kluber became the American League’s first six-game winner and the Cleveland Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 11-2 on Sunday.
The Indians led 9-0 going into the fifth, leading to a stress-free afternoon for the reigning Cy Young Award winner, who gave up two unearned runs in seven innings, scattering eight hits.
“If you have a nine run cushion, obviously you have a bigger margin for error,” Kluber said. “They’ve always been pretty aggressive against me. It can work both ways. You can get some early contact and get some quick outs.”
Kluber (6-2) was backed by four hits from Yan Gomes, including a three-run homer. Jose Ramirez also hit a three-run shot and Michael Brantley had a two-run homer as the Indians had 15 hits.
“It was nice to get him some runs,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He knows what to do with it.”
Kansas City manager Ned Yost knew the big deficit was a bad sign against Kluber, who also won the Cy Young in 2014.
“Yes, he’s that good,” Yost said. “He’s got a tremendous cutter, a real good curveball, and a fastball that starts at a hitter’s hip and just fades right back in over the corner. He’s got excellent command.”
Yankees starter Luis Severino later joined Kluber with six wins.
Gomes hit a fourth-inning home run off Danny Duffy (1-5), doubled in the second and singled in the third and sixth to match his career high for hits.
Ramirez’s homer capped a five-run second inning while Brantley homered in the seventh.
Francisco Lindor extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games with three hits, including an RBI single in the third. Lindor had two homers and two doubles Saturday. He got off to an inauspicious start Sunday, walking to home plate in the first inning wearing the wrong batting helmet.
A switch-hitter, Lindor had on the helmet he usually uses when he hits left-handed — with a protective flap on the right side. But he was facing the left-hander Duffy and was going to hit right-handed.
Lindor quickly realized the mistake, exchanged helmets with a bat boy and smiled when he returned to the batter’s box. Lindor flied out. Helmets with flaps on the side facing the pitcher have been mandatory for all players making their major league debuts since 1983.
Cleveland strung together a single, a double, two walks, a hit batter, a wild pitch and RBI ground balls by Greg Allen and Brantley in the second to take a 2-0 lead. Ramirez’s 12th homer of the season pushed the lead to five.
After striking out Brandon Guyer to finally end the inning, a frustrated Duffy tossed a cooler in the dugout but his day would only get worse. Lindor drove in another run in the following inning before Gomes hit his fifth homer of the season.
Duffy allowed nine runs in 3 1-3 innings. His fortunes were much different than his previous outing when the Royals scored 10 runs in the top of the first. Duffy allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings for his first win of the season.
Duffy, whose ERA jumped from 5.15 to 6.51, gave his performance a harsh critique.
“I just wasn’t making pitches,” he said. “There is nothing else to it. I don’t know what else to say. I have not been a good pitcher this year. There are no excuses. I’ve been letting my team down.”
Gomes fouled out to first baseman Lucas Duda in the seventh, ending his bid for a 5 for 5 afternoon. He admitted getting a fifth hit was on his mind.
“It’s an 11-2 ballgame, so you can take in some of the moment while you’re having your last at-bat,” he said. “I was going to be happy no matter what, I think.”
The ball boy seated in foul territory near the right field line moved quickly to avoid being hit by Rajai Davis’ foul line drive in the eight. The ball boy leaned back in his chair with his legs going in the air as the ball hit off the front of the stands a couple of feet away.
Royals: RHP Justin Grimm (stiff lower back) began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha. He appeared in 10 of Kansas City’s first 19 games before being placed on the disabled list on April 24.
Indians: CF Bradley Zimmer (bruised chest) was out of the lineup again and a trip to the disabled list is possible if he’s not ready in the next day or two. Zimmer has appeared in one game since crashing into the wall at Yankee Stadium on May 5. … LHP Ryan Merritt (shoulder inflammation) has been shut down for three to five days on his minor league rehab assignment.
Royals LHP Eric Skogland (1-2, 6.34 ERA) takes on Rays LHP Ryan Yarbrough (2-2, 4.30 ERA) in the opener of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium. Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco (5-1, 3.61 ERA) faces Tigers RHP Mike Fiers (3-2, 4.73 ERA) as the teams begin a three-game set at Comerica Park.