KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Shin-Soo Choo sat at his locker in the Indians clubhouse, the bruise on the outside of his right knee just larger than a baseball and turning every shade of red and blue imaginable.
“It’s nothing,” he said with a smile.
Driving in the winning runs must have made the pain go away in a hurry.
After getting hit by a pitch early in the game, Choo delivered a two-out double in the 10th inning Saturday night that sent Cleveland to an 11-9 victory over Kansas City — despite blowing a seven-run lead in a testy affair marked by three ejections and a pair of bench-clearings.
“What a crazy kind of emotional game,” said Indians manager Manny Acta, who was among those thrown out during an eventful third inning. “Just glad we came out on top.”
Light-hitting Yuniesky Betancourt helped force extras when he homered in the eighth inning for the Royals, completing their bit-by-bit comeback from a 9-2 hole.
With two outs in the 10th, Choo pounded a pitch from Greg Holland (0-1) to center field that Jarrod Dyson tracked down at the wall. He appeared to have the ball in his glove before it popped loose, and Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley came around with the go-ahead runs.
Jairo Asencio (1-1) earned his first major league win by pitching a clean ninth inning, while Chris Perez set the Royals down in order for his second save of the season.
“Always you try to win games,” Choo said, “but especially tonight.”
Choo was plunked by Jonathan Sanchez in the third inning, sending both teams streaming onto the infield. Sanchez and Choo have some history: The left-hander broke Choo’s thumb last season by hitting him with a pitch. Choo wound up on the disabled list for nearly two months.
“I know it’s not on purpose. The catcher set up inside,” Choo said. “But I still have the memory from last year. Maybe I was a little sensitive.”
Tempers were still simmering in the bottom half when Cleveland starter Jeanmar Gomez hit Mike Moustakas leading off the inning. Plate umpire Gary Darling immediately tossed Gomez along with Acta and third baseman Jack Hannahan, who rushed into the middle of the fray.
Royals manager Ned Yost was also in the middle of the scrap, losing his hat as he got into Hannahan’s face between the mound and first base.
“I don’t really know what they were thinking,” Yost said. “They had to go to their pen early. We had to go to our pen early. It’s one of those things.”
Carlos Santana, Jose Lopez and Kipnis each drove in a pair of runs for the Indians, who have come alive after a miserable five-game stretch to start the season. They scored seven times in the first inning while taking the series opener, and piled up 14 hits on Saturday night.
Things soured for Sanchez early in the third, when Brantley ripped a one-out triple to the wall. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with an RBI single, and Sanchez plunked Choo on the right knee.
Choo started jawing at Sanchez as he headed toward first base, and the Royals starter dished the trash talk right back at him. Hannahan rushed at Sanchez before the umpires and coaches from both teams intervened, restoring order before tempers boiled over.
“I hit him twice. I have nothing against him,” Sanchez said. “I just wanted to come in with those pitches. But if you’re going to miss, miss in. I’m not going to miss over the plate.”
The Indians immediately pounced on the rattled Sanchez, piling up five runs before he was finally lifted from his Kauffman Stadium debut after 2 2-3 innings.
The Royals got a pair of runs back in the third, but Cleveland scored another run in the fourth and added three more in the fifth — Kotchman went deep leading off the inning, and Kipnis followed a base hit by Jason Donald with his own homer to make it 9-2.
Then Royals’ rally started in the most innocuous of ways.
Betancourt singled to lead off the fifth inning, and an RBI double by Moustakas and an RBI by Escobar on a double-play groundout made it 9-4.
Kansas City added two more runs in the sixth. Butler ripped a one-out double to left field, and an error on Kipnis at second base allowed Betancourt to reach first and keep the inning alive for Moustakas, whose RBI double pulled the Royals within three runs.
Hosmer’s run-scoring double and Butler’s RBI single made it a one-run game in the seventh, and Betancourt finally tied it on a 2-2 pitch from Vinnie Pestano leading off the eighth.
Choo made all the hard work coming back moot.
“We were down seven and you want to hold the fort, so you can chip your way back into,” Yost said. “We did tonight, but we just couldn’t get that one extra run to close the game out.”