CLEVELAND (AP) — After celebrating with handshakes and high-fives, the Royals walked off the field as dozens of blue-clad Kansas City backers lined the rows behind their first-base dugout.
The fans held up signs and screamed player’s names.
Downtrodden for so many years, these Royals are being treated like rock stars.
Eric Hosmer drove in four runs, Kendrys Morales added three RBIs and the Royals opened a 10-game trip with a 9-4 victory over the spiraling Cleveland Indians on Monday night.
Hosmer connected for a three-run homer in the first off rookie Cody Anderson (2-2) as the Royals, riding the momentum of their acquisition of ace Johnny Cueto, improved to 15-5 in their last 20 games.
“This is a fun team,” manager Ned Yost said. “We do a lot of things well. It’s a nice, loose atmosphere. We’re playing really good baseball.”
At 60-38, the Royals have equaled the best start in franchise history through 98 games. They had the same record in 1976 and 1980.
“Kansas City is playing consistent baseball, that’s why they’re in first place,” Indians center fielder Michael Bourn said. “They pitch. They hit. They run. They’re aggressive.”
Edinson Volquez (10-5) worked into the seventh inning for Kansas City, which will welcome Cueto on Tuesday. Cueto came over in a trade with Cincinnati, giving the Royals a front-of-the-rotation starter they hope can carry them to a World Series title.
Cueto’s joining a team with big plans for October.
“He’s already got a picture on his phone with his Kansas City uniform on,” said Volquez, who played with Cueto in Cincinnati. “I don’t know where he found it. He texted me and I was like, ‘Where did you get that picture?’ He said, ‘I can’t tell you.'”
Rookie Francisco Lindor hit a three-run homer and Carlos Santana had a solo shot for the Indians, who have dropped five straight.
Before landing Cueto, Volquez was as close as the Royals had to a top-tier starter. The right-hander is 8-2 in his last 14 starts and 19-6 since June 20 of last season. He allowed three runs and six hits, getting pulled after allowing two walks to open the seventh.
Joe Blanton gave up Lindor’s homer, but worked three innings for his second save.
Hosmer said Cueto, who will make his debut for the Royals on Friday in Toronto, is joining a team brimming with confidence.
“It’s an easy group to get along with,” Hosmer said. “We have a lot of fun. When the game starts we play, we give everything we’ve got. We know he’s similar type guy. We’re looking forward to having him.”
The Indians have lost seven in a row at home, and haven’t had the lead while being outscored 35-9 during this current seven-game homestand.
After being swept in four straight by the White Sox and falling into last in the Central, Indians manager Terry Francona held a lengthy closed-door meeting Sunday during which players aired their frustrations about a season slipping away. All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis said the one of the team’s problems was a lack of accountability.
On Monday, Kipnis clarified he was not referring to his manager.
“That comment had nothing with Tito,” Kipnis said. “Tito is our manager — he’s not a baby sitter.”
The Royals wasted no time getting to Anderson, who was coming off his shortest outing this season.
Mike Moustakas singled with one out in the first, Lorenzo Cain walked and Hosmer, who is batting .390 (16 of 41) with four homers and 17 RBIs against Cleveland this season, followed with a 421-foot homer to left-center to make it 3-0 — hardly the start the Indians wanted after their embarrassing weekend.
Kansas City made it 4-0 in the second when Omar Infante connected for his first homer in 336 at-bats this season.
Santana got a run back in the second with his 11th homer, a 433-foot blast to center that cleared a row of shrubs.
But the Royals added three runs in the fifth on Hosmer’s RBI single and a two-run double by Morales, who has 11 RBIs against Cleveland in 2015.
With 68 RBIs, Morales moved into a tie with Toronto’s Josh Donaldson for the league lead.
Royals: RHP Chris Young lasted just three innings in a start last week in a makeup game at St. Louis. Young has held opponents to a .187 average on the road, second-best in the AL. He’s 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA in four career starts against Cleveland.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer tries to correct his confounding problems at Progressive Field. He’s just 3-4 with a 6.16 ERA at home, compared to 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA on the road.
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