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Friday February 28th, 2020 2:53AM

Royal flush: Dozier's slam leads KC to stunning comeback win

By The Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) — Brad Hand's sublime season came to stunning end.

For once, the Royals mustered some late-game magic.

Hunter Dozier's grand slam capped Kansas City's five-run rally in the ninth inning off Hand, Cleveland's previously perfect All-Star closer, as the Royals rallied for an 8-6 win over the Indians on Tuesday night.

Hand (4-3) had been 22 for 22 in save chances and is likely on his way to being selected to represent the Indians when they host the All-Star game at Progressive Field next month.

But the left-hander did not record an out against the Royals, who entered the ninth down 6-3 before storming back.

"It was a fun comeback," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "It was an uplifting comeback. We always come to this place and it's just a handful for us here in Cleveland — every time, I don't know why. I'd much rather play them at our park, but it is always a handful. To battle back and take this one here was nice."

The Royals had been 0-42 when trailing after eight innings before recording their biggest ninth-inning comeback in two years.

Nicky Lopez had an RBI infield single before Kansas City loaded the bases and Dozier connected on Hand's first pitch — a slider — for his first career grand slam and 13th homer.

"Yeah," said Dozier, downplaying his big moment. "That was really cool."

Hand looked shaky from the outset, and was pulled after allowing five hits in just 13 pitches.

"He just proved he's human," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He had been pretty much flawless. It hurts to lose a game, but to expect somebody to never give up runs is not realistic."

Hand offered no excuses, saying he wasn't tired despite pitching five times in the past six days.

"I felt physically good," he said. "I'd let him (Francona) know if something felt tired or whatever, but I felt good, just didn't make some pitches. I got ahead, was trying to bury a few sliders and left them up. Sometimes when you throw too many strikes, it comes back to hurt you. Just got ahead of a few of those batters and made some mistakes."

Kevin McCarthy (2-1) pitched the eighth and stumbled into a win, and Ian Kennedy worked the ninth for his 10th save, striking out Carlos Santana with a runner at second for the final out.

Tyler Naquin hit a two-run homer and Santana, Roberto Perez and Mike Freeman had solo shots for the Indians, who were three outs away from their fifth straight win before Hand imploded.

POWER COMPANY

One bright spot for the Indians was getting homers from their Nos. 7, 8 and 9 homers. Cleveland's offense has been steadily improving and a big reason for the club's surge in June.

"We did some good things offensively," Francona said. "It's just one of those nights where they came back and snatched one from us. We've done that before. It hurts."

CLEVELAND ROCKED

The Royals snapped a three-game losing streak at Progressive Field and improved to just 8-23 in Cleveland since 2016.

START AND STOP

Indians starter Shane Bieber stayed around for 5 2/3 innings, and was in position to get the win when he left, but was unsatisfied with his performance.

"It was kind of one of those days where maybe my stuff was OK, but it felt like I was out of sync and yanking some sliders and some curveballs and not as good of command as usual," he said. "Even then, I had a lot of opportunities to go deeper in the game."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Royals: LHP Eric Skoglund's 80-game suspension for testing positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs ends Wednesday. Skoglund was in the mix to make Kansas City's rotation before the ban. He's made three minor league rehab starts and will be added to the 40-man roster.

Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger will be activated Friday to start the series opener in Baltimore. Clevinger has been sidelined with a sprained ankle sustained in his first start after returning from an eight-week stint on the injured list with a strained back muscle. Francona said Clevinger's bullpen session was intense. "Looked like Game 7 of the World Series," he said. ... OF Jake Bauers felt better after rolling his left ankle during batting practice Monday. Bauers was initially scared he was more seriously injured. "He said he almost kind of blacked out," said Francona, who was surprised to learn Bauers had never sprained an ankle. "I could do that sleeping," he cracked.

UP NEXT

Royals: RHP Jakob Junis (4-6, 5.18 ERA) makes his seventh career start against the Indians. He pitched seven innings of two-hit ball against Cleveland on Sept. 3.

Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer (5-6, 3.69) is winless in his last eight starts at home. He allowed a season-high tying 10 hits in his last start on June 21 at Detroit.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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