CLEVELAND (AP) While Francisco Lindor makes a late run for AL Rookie of the Year, he might be accomplishing something even more important for the Cleveland Indians.
''He keeps getting better and better,'' manager Terry Francona said. ''He's impacting games almost every night.''
Lindor was 3 for 4 with a home run and four RBIs, and also made an outstanding defensive play at shortstop to help the Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 5-1 Wednesday night.
The win also helped Cleveland remain in contention for the Amercan League's second wild-card spot.
''It's fun to watch,'' Francona said. ''For him to impact games the way he has is pretty special.''
Lindor downplayed his night, saying, ''It felt great. We won. That's the biggest thing.''
Danny Salazar (13-8) took a three-hit shutout into the seventh before Mike Moustakas started the inning with a home run. The right-hander allowed one run and struck out six in seven innings as the Indians (72-72) got back to .500.
Danny Duffy (7-8) allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings for Kansas City, which has dropped nine of 12.
Lindor, who matched his career high in hits and RBIs, had a solo homer in the first for his 100th hit since being called up from the minors on June 14. He added a two-run single in the second and an RBI single in the fourth, but the moment that meant the most to him may have come the following inning.
Lindor impacted the game defensively in the fifth. He dove to his left to come up with Alex Rios' ground ball and made a one-hop throw to first from his knees for the out. He showed his ever-present smile after the play as he watched the scoreboard replay.
''It looked great,'' he said. ''I've never been a fan of a guy who makes a great play and acts like he's done it 10,000 times. Smile, man. That's what we play for.''
Duffy was impressed.
''I honestly think Lindor has already arrived,'' he said. He's going to be a heck of a player.''
Lindor drove a 1-0 pitch several rows deep in the left-field bleachers in the first. Following Jason Kipnis' RBI single in the second, the switch-hitter punched a hit through the right side for a 4-0 lead.
Lindor's first two hits came from the right side against the left-handed Duffy. His fourth-inning single was off right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. Lindor, 21, was Cleveland's first draft pick in 2011, No. 8 overall. He began the season at Triple-A Columbus.
Cleveland is four games behind Houston, but also trailed Minnesota and Los Angeles in the wild-card race.
Kansas City was a season-high 31 games over .500 (82-51) on Sept. 3 before its recent rough stretch. The Royals were still 10 games ahead of Minnesota in the AL Central.
Reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who has been out since late August with a strained hamstring, will start against the Royals on Thursday. Asked if Kluber will be on a pitch count, Francona joked, ''Yeah, probably 140-150.'' Francona then said there won't be a fixed number of pitches for the right-hander.
HEARD IT THIS TIME
A Progressive Field technician mistakenly set off fireworks when Rios homered Tuesday night. Francona said the explosion shocked him a little and then admitted he'd never heard the fireworks go off when an Indians player hit a home run.
''I did (hear it),'' Francona said of the fireworks after Lindor's homer. I kind of checked it out.''
Royals: OF Lorenzo Cain was in the lineup after being removed in the ninth inning Tuesday. He was hit on the leg by a pitch earlier in the game and twisted his ankle Monday.
Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura has won three of his last four road starts, raising his season mark in away games to 4-3 with a 5.15 ERA.
Indians: RHP Corey Kluber returns to the mound for the first time since Aug. 29. He's 1-3 in four starts this season against the Royals.