CLEVELAND — Shane Bieber allowed two runs over five innings in his final start before the postseason, Josh Naylor and rookie Will Brennan hit three-run homers and the Cleveland Guardians defeated the Kansas City Royals 7-5 on Sunday.
Bieber (13-8) is scheduled to start Game 1 of the wild-card series Friday for the AL Central champions. Cleveland is 90-69, has won 11 of 13 and is an MLB-best 22-5 since Sept. 5.
The right-hander gave up both runs — one unearned —in the fourth and scattered seven hits, struck out three, walked one and threw 80 pitches. Bieber finished the regular season with 198 strikeouts in 200 innings.
“Knew we were on a bit of a pitch count and want to go out there and compete,” he said. “We’re still trying to win ballgames and we want to win outright and finish the season on a high note. That’s what it came down to.”
Guardians manager Terry Francona thought it was a hard start for Bieber in terms of wanting to pitch well, but also knowing what's ahead.
“You want to get through and you want to feel good and you want to get people out,” Francona said. “All of a sudden, they’re starting to put balls in play and get some hits, and we don’t get a couple outs. But he knows Friday’s coming.”
Naylor and Brennan homered off Max Castillo (0-2) in Cleveland’s six-run second.
Naylor played first base and batted cleanup, one spot ahead of his brother Bo, who was the designated hitter. Bo Naylor, called up from the minors Saturday, struck out in all four at-bats.
“I know their parents are here,” Francona said. “We don’t make the lineup too often like that, but I thought maybe they’d get a kick out of that.”
Josh Naylor’s home run gave Cleveland a 7-0 lead. Brennan, another rookie, hit his first major-league homer earlier in the inning. He also tripled and scored to leadoff the game.
Kansas City cut the score to 7-5 in the eighth, but Trevor Stephan retired Edward Olivares with two on to end the inning. Emmanuel Clase pitched the ninth for his major-league leading 41st save.
“We had some really good at-bats, put us in a situation bring (Olivares) up there with a chance to take the lead,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said. “After being down as much as we were down to have that opportunity late in the game, it shows a lot of fight.”
Amed Rosario had a sacrifice fly in the first before Cleveland sent nine men to the plate in the second and scored six times with two outs.
Brennan is batting .355 in nine games since being called up from Triple-A Columbus on Sept. 21 and is playing his way on to the postseason roster.
“There’s a reason we called him up when we did,” Francona said. “We felt like he could help us moving forward when there’s only three weeks left in the season. That’s probably the biggest compliment we could give him.”
José Ramirez stole his 20th base of the season in the seventh, the fourth time in his career he has hit 20 home runs and stolen 20 bases in a season.
Castillo, acquired from Toronto for Whit Merrifield, allowed seven runs in five innings, but retired 10 in a row after Cleveland jumped ahead.
MJ Melendez and Vinnie Pasquantino each had three hits for the Royals.
TAKE A DAY
Royals catcher Salvador Perez wasn’t in the lineup after feeling soreness in his left thumb during Saturday’s game.
Perez tore the ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb in June, had surgery and returned in late July. Perez homered in the seventh inning Saturday and was removed from the game following the at-bat because of discomfort in the thumb.
Matheny said tests showed the area where the surgery was performed wasn’t affected and Perez is day-to-day over the final three games of the season.
“We’re fortunate everything looked good where the repair was,” Matheny said. “That didn’t seem to be an issue. It’s just sore.”
The game-time temperature was 58 degrees, which felt much lower to fans thanks to a 22 mph wind blowing in from center field.
The six-game series continues Monday night. RHP Zack Greinke (4-9, 3.78 ERA) is 1-0 in three starts against the Guardians this season, allowing two earned runs over 16 2/3 innings. RHP Triston McKenzie (11-11, 2.99 ERA) was 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in five September starts.