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CLE@KC: Indians erupt for seven runs in the first

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals held a festive pregame ceremony for their home opener, but then the first pitch was thrown. Suddenly, the Indians were controlling the party.

Before some blue-clad Royals fans had settled into their seats, the Indians threw a wet blanket over Kansas City's 2012 home debut with a seven-run eruption in the first that boosted Cleveland to an 8-3 victory and an emphatic answer to those who were questioning its anemic offense through the opening week at Progressive Field.

Michael Brantley, who had one hit through the opening five games, picked up two hits in the opening inning. Jason Kipnis, who hit .095 on the homestand, launched a wind-aided two-run triple in the first and helped a solid rally mushroom out of control.

Go figure. It was as though all of Cleveland's pent-up offensive frustration was released in that eight-hit first inning against Royals' starter Luke Hochevar. Meanwhile, Indians starter Derek Lowe was steady enough over 6 2/3 innings. Lowe allowed 11 hits, but limited the damage to just three runs.

"Any time you're pitching on the road in the other team's home opener, there's going to be a lot of excitement and a lot of buzz," Lowe said. "Our offense silenced them early. You can't ask for anything more as a starting pitcher."

Manager Manny Acta has stressed patience before the game, saying one week wasn't a big enough sample size to judge any of his struggling hitters. In the road opener, that patience was rewarded.

"It's a funny game," Acta said. "Water will usually go to the level where it's supposed to be. Everybody was having good at-bats. That [first] inning was an indication that these guys are better than that."

The Indians started with three straight hits off Hochevar, including a two-run single by Shin-Soo Choo. But then Hochevar steadied himself by getting the next two hitters. With Shelley Duncan at the plate, Cleveland got a big break offensively that kept the inning going.

Hochevar had Duncan off-stride, but Duncan's check-swing looper fell for an RBI single to right.

"It was like, 'Hey, maybe things are going to start swinging our way,'" Acta said.

The Indians kept it going with four more runs, including the two-run triple by Kipnis on a fly ball that the wind carried away from center fielder Jarrod Dyson, who had just come up from Triple-A Omaha to replace injured Lorenzo Cain.

"You can't ask for a better inning," Kipnis said. "We were focused and we attacked the fastball. You could definitely see some sighs of relief."

Staked to the 7-0 lead before he took the mound, Lowe allowed three consecutive hits. But then Billy Butler hit into a double play, which Lowe felt was the biggest at-bat of his outing.

"I didn't exactly come out of the gate strong myself," Lowe said.

The Royals tried to peck away and closed within 7-3 in the fourth. But Lowe and Cleveland's bullpen did the job thereafter, and Asdrubal Cabrera added a solo homer in the ninth.

"I felt like they hit everything I threw in the first inning," Hochevar said.

The Royals' right-hander said the plan was to establish the fastball on the inner half of the plate, but the Indians' hitters were ready.

"They came out turnin' and burnin'," Hochevar said. "That can't happen in the first inning."

Hochevar left after a scary play that ended the fourth inning. Carlos Santana hit a liner that caromed off Hochevar's left ankle. The Kansas City pitcher was eventually helped off the field and X-rays were negative on what was termed a contusion.

"He's going to be OK, that's the important thing," Santana said.

The Indians were particularly happy to see the first three hitters in the lineup -- Brantley, Cabrera and Choo -- combine to go 6-of-14 with four runs scored and four runs batted in.

Kipnis anchored the lower half of the order with his two-run triple.

"It was a fastball in and I kept my hands through it," Kipnis said. "I thought I hit it pretty well, but I didn't know just how well. As [Dyson] was going back, I was just hoping the wind would push it out of his reach, and it looked like it did."

It was that kind of day for Cleveland. The Indians had to come all the way to Kansas City to finally find their offense. Comments