One night after clobbering Kansas City 19-1, the Cleveland Indians knew they'd better get off to a quick start. The red-faced Royals would be keyed up, yearning to put the embarrassing loss behind them.
No problem. Coming to bat with the bases loaded in the top of the first, hot-hitting veteran Travis Hafner unloaded a three-run double. In full possession of all the momentum, the Indians and Carlos Carrasco rolled to a 7-3 victory and a two-game sweep.
"We all know how baseball is," said Cleveland manager Manny Acta. "The fact we scored three runs right away in the first inning really helped our side. They probably were, 'Hey, here it comes again. These guys can't do anything wrong right now.' It was very important to jump ahead right away."
No one could blame the Royals for thinking the first-place Indians can do no wrong. They outscored them 26-4 in the two games and have beaten them five straight.
Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera both homered as the first-place Indians won their third in a row and improved to 26-13, the best winning percentage in the majors.
At this point a year ago they were 15-24. But counting Carrasco's outing on Tuesday night, Indians starters have rung up 27 quality starts in 37 outings.
"It's been remarkable the amount of quality starts we have gotten out of these guys," said Acta. "It helps so much because it gives us an opportunity to keep our bullpen fresh and be able to match up with the least amount of outs left in the game."
Carrasco (2-2) went 5 1-3 innings and gave up two runs on five hits, with two walks and five strikeouts. It was his first victory after three straight no-decisions. The five strikeouts were one short of his season high.
"Today I feel great. I feel I can throw my fastball. I was using my best pitch, my fastball."
Getting the 3-0 lead did not affect him as much as it may have bothered the Royals.
"That felt good," he said. "But I put it in my mind the game was 0-0. That made me attack the hitters. Every inning, I would say, '0-0' and try to do my best. Yesterday I see 19 runs and I'm thinking, 'Oh, save some for tomorrow.' But we got seven."
But as Acta suspected, falling into a quick 3-0 hole did bother O'Sullivan.
"For me, the first inning, you're trying to get settled in, coming down from the bullpen, trying to feel out the strike zone and see where you're at that night," he said. "Especially for me, that first inning's big. If you can get through that unscathed, then you can really settled into a groove. Obviously, I wasn't able to do that."
Carlos Santana hit a solo home run off O'Sullivan in the fifth and Asdrubal Cabrera made it 7-2 with a leadoff home run in the seventh off left-hander Everett Teaford, who made his major league debut.
Royals rookie Eric Hosmer tripled and scored on Matt Treanor's single in the second inning and had an RBI single in the sixth, going 2 for 4. But he was also picked off second in the sixth inning on a great throw from catcher Santana.
"That was a big play for us, no doubt," said Acta.
O'Sullivan got off to a horrible start, giving up a leadoff double to Michael Brantley, hitting Shin-Soo Choo and walking Santana. Hafner then made it 3-0 with a bases-clearing double. He also doubled in the fifth following Santana's home run and scored on a single by Travis Buck, who was called up on Monday when Grady Sizemore went on the disabled list. Hafner has reached safely in his last 17 games. Orlando Cabrera singled in the fourth and eventually scored on Brantley's sacrifice fly.
O'Sullivan, who has made five of his six starts at home, gave up eight hits and six runs in five innings. He had two walks and two strikeouts.
"They outplayed us in every phase of the game the whole series," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "They out-hit us, they out-pitched us, they out-defensed us. They just outplayed us."
Teaford, called up from Triple-A Omaha to replace Vin Mazzaro, the right-hander who was charged with 14 runs on Monday, went 1 1-3 innings and allowed two hits, including Cabrera's home run.
Santana, who walked three times and doubled in the 19-1 win on Monday, reached base three times with a walk, home run and single while scoring two runs.
Melky Cabrera had an RBI single off Chris Perez in the bottom of the ninth.
Notes: The Royals are taking rookie reliever Nate Adcock out of the bullpen and giving him the start on Sunday against St. Louis. ... After a two-game series in Chicago, the Indians end an unusual four-game road trip and return to Cleveland for a six-game home stand.