CLEVELAND (AP) — With seven games still left this month, Jason Kipnis has already surpassed his statistics from last April.
Cleveland Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, right, celebrates with relief pitcher John Axford after a 5-3 win over the Kansas City Royals in a baseball game on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
That wasn't hard to do.
"I set the bar so low," he said.
Kipnis drove in Nick Swisher from first base with a two-out double in the seventh inning, sending the Cleveland Indians to a 5-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.
Kipnis, who batted just .200 with one homer and four RBIs in the season's first month in 2013, ripped his double off Kelvin Herrera (0-1) into the gap in right-center, deep enough to easily score Swisher, who reached on a two-out single.
"That was a real big hit," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Sometimes you need a big hit at a big time and we got it tonight."
Kipnis has become big time.
After shaking off his horribly slow start last season, he made his first All-Star team, batted .284 and developed into one of the AL's top all-around players.
So, when he came up in another clutch situation, it wasn't surprising to any of the Indians that Kipnis came through.
Kipnis signed a six-year, $52.5 million contract on opening day and he's wasted no time in living up to the deal.
"I think he has less far to climb this year," Francona said. "He really dug himself a hole last year. He's always a threat, whether it's against a left-hander or right-hander. He can hit the ball all over the field or out of the ballpark. He can beat you with his legs.
"I don't really look up and see what Kip's batting average is, we want him hitting all the time."
The Indians tacked on an important insurance run in the eighth on pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall's bloop RBI single.
Bryan Shaw (1-0) finished the seventh and got one out in the eighth. Cody Allen retired two, and John Axford worked the ninth for his AL-leading eighth save.
Michael Bourn had three hits and two RBIs for the Indians. Bourn, Nick Swisher and Kipnis, Cleveland's 1-2-3 hitters, combined for six hits and three RBIs.
Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas hit back-to-back homers in the second for Kansas City.
Indians starter Justin Masterson remained winless through five starts. The staff's ace, who turned down a contract extension during spring training, allowed two earned runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings.
"I'll take as many no-decisions as come as long as we're winning," he said.
Down 3-2, the Indians tied it in the sixth off lefty starter Jason Vargas when Michael Brantley scored from first on two Kansas City errors.
Brantley singled with one out, and broke for second with two down and Yan Gomes batting. As Brantley slid safely into second, the throw from catcher Perez skipped into center field. Brantley hustled toward third and center fielder Jarrod Dyson took his eye off the ball, overrunning it and letting the tying run score.
"I came in too hard," Dyson said. "I should have come in and played it off the hop because I probably didn't have a shot at him anyway. I have to remind myself to slow the body down. I came in crashing like that. When you have two outs and your pitcher up there doing his thing you kind of have to settle down and not make that mistake."
Moustakas gave the Royals a 3-2 lead in the sixth, when an error by second baseman Kipnis helped set up Kansas City's unearned go-ahead run.
Eric Hosmer singled and was safe at second after Kipnis dropped shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera's low throw. Hosmer moved to third on a fielder's choice and Moustakas delivered his two-out RBI single.
Bourn atoned for a baserunning blunder with a two-run triple in the second to tie it 2-2.
Perez and Moustakas connected in the second off Masterson.
With one out, Perez snapped an 0-for-22 slump with a drive over the center-field wall for his first homer.
Four pitches later, Moustakas made it 2-0 with a liner into the Royals' bullpen, the same place he hit a three-run shot on Tuesday in Kansas City's 8-2 win.
NOTES: Sloppy play has been one of Cleveland's main problems. The Indians came in tied for the AL lead with 20 errors. "As a team, we have not played very good defense yet," Francona said. "I think we will be better. We need to be better. We're that type of team where when we play clean baseball, we generally give ourselves a chance to win. When you give a team extra outs or extra opportunities, it certainly makes it tougher." ... Indians 3B/DH Carlos Santana is in a 2-for-46 (.043) slide. ... Cleveland relievers have stranded a major league-best 91 percent (32 of 35) of runners inherited.