Bullpen Blows Up and Fizzles Early Lead; Royals 10, Indians 7
Mike Brandyberry | On 04, Jul 2013
The Indians provided fireworks long before darkness on this Independence Day.
After taking an early 5-0 lead, Ubaldo Jimenez faltered and the Tribe bullpen exploded better than a firecracker, allowing 10 runs in the final three innings, resulting in a 10-7 embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Royals. Tribe pitchers only allowed six hits, but set up their futility with eight walks.
The Tribe took the lead immediately in the top of the first inning, but could have scored much more. Michael Bourn started the game with a base hit to center field and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a walk to set the table. Jason Kipnis first tried to bunt for a base hit, but after it narrowly rolled foul, he hit a liner back up the middle that caught Royals’ pitcher James Shields on the foot. It slowed enough for Kansas City to force out Cabrera at second base. Had the ball passed Shields cleanly, it would have been a run-scoring single.
With runners on first and third base and one out, Michael Brantley singled over the infield to center field to plate Bourn and give the Indians a 1-0 lead. Kipnis advanced to second and it appeared the Tribe could put together a big inning when Carlos Santana lined to the right side. However, Kansas City benefitted from the shift and snagged the would-be base hit. With a regular defensive alignment, the Indians would have again scored.
Mark Reynolds struck out to end the inning and the Tribe was able to only score one run in what could have been a big inning.
The Indians did answer back with more offense in right away in the top of the second inning. Mike Aviles doubled down the left field line to start the inning and advanced to third base on Lonnie Chisenhall’s fly ball to right field. Aviles did not have to hustle home, however, as he trotted home on Drew Stubbs deep homer to left field. The two-run blast was Stubbs’ seventh homer of the year and staked the Tribe to a 3-0 lead.
Jimenez meanwhile did his customary tap-dancing routine as he rendezvoused around trouble, but wasn’t hurt early. He escaped a hit and walk with two outs in the first inning and two walks in the second inning, but neither cost the wild right-hander.
Shields settled down after the first two innings, retiring nine in a row beginning in the third inning, but the Tribe ended his day in the sixth inning. Santana singled through the shift to start the inning. Aviles singled and Chiesnhall walked with one out to load the bases and Stubbs punished Shields again. This time he singled to center field, scoring two and giving the Indians a 5-0 lead. Stubbs base hit ended Shields afternoon.
J.C. Gutierrez came on and got Bourn to ground into a fielder’s choice and Cabrera to pop out and end the inning. It closed the book on Shields, throwing five and one-third innings, allowing five runs on nine hits, two walks and three strikeouts. Stubbs was his nemesis of the afternoon.
However, the five run lead was short-lived as the wheels came off the tracks in the bottom of the sixth inning. Jimenez walked Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler to start the inning. Mike Moustakas grounded to first base but Jimenez was unable to handle the feed from Reynolds and the bases were loaded. Lorenzo Cain quickly unloaded them with a grand slam liner to center field, cutting into Cleveland’s lead and making it 5-4. That would end Jimenez’s day, pitching five innings after allowing just three hits, four runs and five walks on 104 pitches.
Cleveland answered right back in the top of the seventh with a rally of their own when Kipnis walked and Brantley singled to left to start the inning. Aaron Crow came on to relieve Gutierrez. Santana welcomed him to the game with a double to the right center field wall, bringing both runners home and giving the Tribe another lead at 7-5.
But the bullpen blowups would continue in the bottom of the seventh inning when Joe Smith came on to protect the lead for the Tribe. He walked Alcides Escobar to lead off the inning and trotted home when Hosmer hit his ninth home run of the season, launching a two-run bomb to the deepest part of the ballpark in center field.
Luke Hochevar came on and pitched a three-up, three-down eighth inning to restore order to the Royals pitching staff. However, the Tribe’s bullpen continued to explode with their grand finale coming in the bottom half of the eighth. Bryan Shaw started the inning, but walked Kottaras, who was removed for a pinch-hitter. After Johnny Giavotella tried unsuccessfully to bunt twice, Shaw hit him with a pitch.
With two on and no one out, Rich Hill came on to face Jarrod Dyson. A passed ball by Santana allowed both runners to move up and forced Dyson to be intentionally walked and load the bases. Indians manager Terry Francona headed back to the bullpen again, asking Matt Albers to get out of a bases loaded jam for the second straight game. Luck was not on his side this time and Salvador Perez smoked a double down the left field line, scoring all three runs and giving the Royals a 10-7 lead.
Greg Holland worked a scoreless ninth inning to send the Indians packing and earn his 19th save of the season. Shaw (0-2) suffered the loss, facing only two hitters, while Hochevar (2-1) was the winner, working a scoreless inning of relief. Cleveland could not hold either lead the offense staked them to. Brantley’s four hits, in addition to two by Santana, Aviles and Stubbs were all lost in the defeat.
Friday the Indians return home for the start of a 10-game homestand, beginning with four with the Detroit Tigers. Justin Masterson (10-6, 3.48) will look to solidify his All-Star spot in the American League for the Tribe, while he’ll be opposed by the Tigers’ Rick Porcello (4-6, 5.21).
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images