Fielding Miscues and Lack of Hitting Derail Tribe; Royals 6, Indians 2

Wednesday afternoon’s series finale between the Indians and Royals at Progressive Field did not start well for either side’s starting pitcher. However, Kansas City hurler James Shields rebounded to dominate after a rough initial frame.

Meanwhile, Cleveland starter Scott Kazmir rebounded to pitch better after a horrendous start. However, defensive miscues and a lack of offense doomed the Tribe to a 6-2 defeat. The loss, Cleveland’s second straight to the Royals, dropped the Indians to 2 games behind Tampa for the second AL Wild Card spot. Kansas City, in taking 2 of 3 games in series, is now just a 1/2 game behind the Tribe. Cleveland manager Terry Francona said it was disappointing his team could not fare better against a fellow wild card hopeful. He added that the upcoming four-game series in Chicago, beginning tomorrow, will be big in keeping pace in the playoff race.

“(The Royals) are a good team,” Francona said. “They’re right we are. They’re fighing like cracy like we are. They’re a good team. We held on for the first game and they got us the next two. Now we’ve got to go play well tomorrow.”

The day could not have started any worse for Kazmir in front of 12,085 home fans. Alex Gordon jumped on the very first pitch of the game for a home run. It put the Indians in a hole they would never crawl out of. Emilio Bonifacio followed the jack with a triple and scored on an Eric Hosmer single. The Royals were up 2-0 and had nearly hit for the team cycle befor Kazmir could record an out. Kazmir got the next two batters out before Justin Maxwell got a hit to make it 3-0.

That was all the earned runs Kazmir would allow, as he coughed up just one more unearned tally before exiting after four stanzas. At the very least the Tribe lefty did damage control and allowed the Indians the chance to rally back.

Cleveland looked like it might put up a fight against the Royals ace, Shields. Much as Kansas City did Kazmir, the Indians jumped on Shields from the get-go. Michael Bourn led off Cleveland’s half of the first with single. That was followed by Mike Aviles reaching when he was plunked by a Shields pitch. With two down and Bourn and Aviles at second and third, Michael Brantley came through with a two-run single. It pulled Cleveland to within 3-2. However, the offense went silent after that.

While Kazmir was all right after the first, Shields did not allow another hit until the 9th inning as he nearly pulled it together enough to earn a complete game.

Cleveland pitching was not helped by its own fielding. Kazmir committed a fifth-inning error that led to an unearned run. Reliever Rich Hill had a throwing error that helped the Royals take a 5-2 lead. The run would be earned, however, though Hill may have been able to get out of a second and third jam if his pick off attempt to third was not long.

The Royals collected their final run after a fielding miscue by Drew Stubbs in the eighth. Mike Moustakas popped up with two out and the inning appeared over. However, Stubbs lost the ball in the sun. The ball dropped foul. Moustakas took advantage of the new life and singled, driving home the game’s final run.

Francona said the blunders in the field were costlier than anything else that happened during the day.

“The two (errors) directly led to runs,” he said. You can’t give teams extra opportunities, ever. We did that too much today and it hurt us.”

The Indians were also hurt by the lack of runs and hits after the first inning. Cleveland did finally get to Shields again in the final frame. Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana led off with back-to-back singles to make the Royals sweat. It also chased Shields from the game. However, Kansas City turned to its closer Greg Holland. Holland came on to strike out the next three hitters and end the threat.

Cleveland, struggling on offense for most of the post-All-Star break, managed just the four hits and six base runners, in all.

The Indians could not ask for a better time to take a trip to Chicago. The White Sox, at 58-86, habe struggled all year. Cleveland will send Corey Kluber to the mound tomorrow night to take on John Danks, with an 8:10 start time.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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