Similar formula, same result.
After letting the first game of the four game series get away from them on Thursday night, due to poor defense and untimely hitting, the Indians again had another winnable game slide through their fingers. This time, the Tribe battled back to overcome a mediocre start from Josh Tomlin with two homers by Carlos Santana off young, Kansas City nemesis Yordano Ventura.
But with the game tied in the eighth inning, John Axford left a fastball up and over the middle of the plate to pinch-hitter Billy Butler. Butler, who is having a disappointing season, crushed the pitch deep into the left field seats to give Kansas City a 6-4 win Friday night. The loss for the Indians is their third in a row and fifth in the last six games. The loss may be especially crushing after battling back against Ventura, a youngster who has had Cleveland’s number this year.
Kansas City fought for seven innings to plate a run last night, the Royals struck quickly in Friday night’s game. In the bottom of the second inning, Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas started the inning with back-to-back home runs off Tomlin. Perez’s 12th and Moustakas’ 13th home runs of the season gave Kansas City a 2-0 lead. Tomlin has now surrendered 16 home runs in his 14 starts this season.
Meanwhile, Ventura again looked to have Cleveland’s number early. Despite an up and down season, Ventura has had great success against the Tribe—entering the game 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in two starts against Cleveland this season. In the first three innings he allowed just a single to David Murphy. In the fourth inning, Carlos Santana put the Indians on the board with a solo home run to right center field. Santana’s 16th homer of the season cut Cleveland’s deficit to 2-1.
But for the second straight night, an Indians throwing error put their struggling offense in a hole. Alex Gordon singled to right field to start the bottom of the fourth inning and after Tomlin retired the next two hitters, Raul Ibanez tripled into the right field corner. Gordon scored easily from first base, and after Jason Kipnis’ wild relay throw rolled into the camera bay, Ibanez was awarded home. Kansas City led 4-1, taking advantage of the Tribe’s poor defense. It is the second straight night an Indians throw has allowed the hitter to circle the bases and score.
Santana did it again for Cleveland in the sixth inning, swinging them back into the game. Michael Brantley singled to center field, snapping a 0-for-16 slump, before Santana hit his second homer of the game, a two-run blast to right field. His 17th homer of the season, again, cut the Tribe’s deficit to just one, making it 4-3.
Tomlin battled into the bottom of the sixth, but when Perez logged his second hit of the evening, the little cowboy was done for the evening. Tomlin pitched five and one-third innings, allowing four runs—only three earned—on seven hits and five strikeouts, earning a no-decision. Kyle Crockett completed the frame, keeping the score in tact.
Cleveland took advantage of some Kansas City miscues in the top of the seventh inning in order to tie the game. Yan Gomes started the inning by reaching safely on Moustakas’ throwing error. After Murphy dropped a single to left field and Jose Ramirez bunted the two runners into scoring position, Ventura’s evening was complete. Ventura pitched six and one-third innings, allowing four runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out seven. His downfall were the two home runs to Santana.
Francisley Bueno came on in relief for Kansas City to face Kipnis. Kipnis hit a shallow fly ball to right field, but the second baseman and right fielder had communication issues, causing Lorenzo Cain to make a diving catch. The dive allowed Gomes to tag from third base and hustle home to tie the game at four. Jason Frasor got the final out of the inning, getting pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn to pop out.
Carlos Carrasco pitched a scoreless bottom half of the seventh before getting the first out of the eighth inning and issuing Perez’s third hit of the game. Indians manager Terry Francona decided to match up with Nick Hagadone against Alex Gordon. After Hagadone got Gordon to pop out, Francona went back to his pen for Axford, who gave up the crushing two-run homer to Butler. The two-run blast was just his fourth homer of the year, but gave Kansas City a 6-4 lead.
Gomes tried to give the Indians a chance in the ninth, starting it off with a double, but Aaron Crow got Murphy to foul out, and Ramirez and Kipnis to ground out to end the game. Crow earned his second save of the season, filling in for Greg Holland who was unavailable. Carrasco (3-4) suffered the loss in relief, despite Axford giving up the critical home run. Kelvin Herrera (2-2) pitched the eighth inning for Kansas City to pick up the win.
The loss drops Cleveland to 51-52 on the season, three games back of the final Wild Card spot and at least eight back of Central Division leading Detroit. The road trip that started so strong is now just 4-5 through nine games. Offensively, the Indians still only had seven hits for the evening, led by three from Murphy and Santana’s two home runs.
Cleveland will try to get back to .500 on the season and the road trip on Saturday evening. Zach McAllister (3-5, 5.28) will take the mound for Cleveland, while Kansas City will counter with Jeremy Guthrie (5-9, 4.56). The game will begin at 7:10 p.m. and can be seen on FoxSports1.
Photo: Charlie Reidel/AP Photo