The low scoring affair in Minnesota followed the Tribe to Kansas City as they managed to score only one run in tonight’s contest. Defensive miscues and two misplaced pitches led to the Royals taking the first game in this four game series in walk-off fashion.
Everyone in Cleveland was keeping their mouth shut as Corey Kluber was throwing a gem against the Royals through six innings. He had a perfect game going into the seventh, which was eventually broken up by a single from Omar Infante. Danny Duffy was opposing Kluber tonight for Kansas City.
The game flew by early as Duffy and Kluber were pitching hitless baseball through the first four innings. The first hit of the game didn’t come until the top of the fifth when Carlos Santana hit a single to left to lead off the inning. Ryan Raburn then followed with a walk, but it was all for naught. Nick Swisher followed up with a fielder’s choice to third, and then Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall both struck out to end the inning. Duffy left the first two runners of the game on base.
Through the first four innings, Kluber had five strikeouts, and had not allowed a runner to reach base. The fifth went quickly, but it was busy for the young shortstop Jose Ramirez as he had all three plays in the fifth. By the end of the inning, Kluber had still been pitching that thing people aren’t supposed to talk about.
After getting two quick outs to Ramirez and Jason Kipnis, Duffy was looking to have another 1-2-3 inning. This was foiled by Mike Aviles after he drew a walk off of Duffy. Michael Brantley was hoping to get something going as he was hitless through his first two at bats. He thought he had a hit down the right field line, but first basemen Billy Butler was there to snag the ball to end the inning.
Kluber came back in the sixth and pitched another sharp inning. He gained his eighth strikeout of the game and ended the inning at seventy pitches.
Santana led off the inning for the second time in the game in the top of the seventh. He then followed up with this second hit of the game, which was only the second hit in the game for either team. Duffy ended up working out of the leadoff single again though. A strike out to Raburn was followed up with back-to-back fly outs to Swisher and Gomes.
The bottom of the seventh came around, and Kluber was still pitching a perfect game after getting Jarrod Dyson to pop up to Ramirez to lead off. Then Infante came around to get the first single for the Royals to break up the no-hit, perfect game bid for Kluber. Following the single, Alex Gordon struck out and Infante was caught stealing on a strike-‘em out, throw-‘em out play. Even though his perfect game was gone, Kluber had still just faced the minimum batters at the end of the inning.
Wade Davis came on to replace Duffy to start the eighth inning. The Tribe threatened as Ramirez and Kipnis both reached. David Murphy came on to pinch hit for Aviles, and was able to come through for them as he laced a single to left to load the bases. The next guy up was Brantley, who had destroyed Royals pitching all season long. Tonight was not so favorable for Brantley though as he hit into a double play to end the inning. On the night, he was 0-6 on the night.
The eighth inning was when things got interesting. With one out, Mike Moustakas hit a fly ball to the left field line. Raburn had been shifted to left field after Murphy came in to replace Aviles. Raburn went to make a play on the ball, but botched the catch and the ball was called fair. Following the botched catch, Raburn then spiked the ball into the ground and Moustakas kept running around the bases as the ball rolled into no-mans land. Moustakas came around to score the first run of the game. The run was scored an error on Raburn, but the Royals were leading 1-0 at the end of the eighth.
The Indians were able to make the ninth inning interesting exciting for those back in Cleveland. Greg Holland came out to pitch for the Royals and try to close out the game. Santana led off the inning for the third time of the night, but this time with a walk. Chris Dickerson pinch hit for Raburn and was able to bunt Santana into scoring position. Swisher grounded out to second and moved Santana over to third. With two down, Gomes came through for the Tribe as he shot a single up the middle to score Santana and tie the game back up at 1-1. This was Hollands second blown save of the season, but he was able to get out of the inning. Kluber came on to pitch the ninth and blew through Aoki, Alcides Escobar and Dyson to end the ninth.
Even though Kluber didn’t get a no hitter, perfect game or shutout he still pitched very well and had another game of ten strikeouts. In four starts against Kansas City, Kluber has an ERA of 1.44 with 36 strikeouts and 3 walks.
The Royals started to threaten in the eleventh when Raul Ibanez, who was pinch hitting for Eric Hosmer who came in as a defensive replacement for Bulter, hit a double to deep right field. Bryan Shaw, who had come out to pitch in the tenth and eleventh, was replaced by Scott Atchison to face Norichika Aoki. With two down Aoki hit a grounder up the middle to Ramirez. He was able to make a play on it for a bang-bang play at first. Manager Terry Francona challenged the play and Aoki was called out at first to end the inning.
The game finally came to an end in the fourteenth. After Marc Rzepczynski put Escobar on, and then John Axford came on to replace him. Escobar moved to second on a stolen base that was eventually challenged. Francona wasn’t as successful on this challenge as Escobar was ruled safe. He was able to strike out pinch hitter Danny Valencia, but Aoki came through with one out when he shot a single into left to score Escobar from second. The Royals won the opener on a score of 2-1.
Even though Kluber pitched an almost perfect game, he wasn’t able to get the win because the Indians could not find their offense, and their defensive woes continued. They’re starting to lose ground on the division, so they’ll need to start picking it up if they hope to play in October.
Photo: Colin E. Braley/Getty Images