A two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning by Salvador Perez off of Cleveland setup man Bryan Shaw gave the Kansas City Royals a 3-2 win over the Indians on Tuesday night.
It was another low scoring game from Kauffman Stadium and another 2-1 score in the eighth inning, with the Indians on top this time when Shaw took over for starter Josh Tomlin on the mound.
Shaw’s struggles to get ahead of hitters once again took center stage, as he needed six pitches to retire Alcides Escobar after falling behind 2-0. He threw two more balls to start the at bat of Eric Hosmer before getting him to put the ball in play on pitch six. The bouncer to Jose Ramirez was mishandled in the transfer from glove to hand, allowing the KC first baseman to reach safely. New batter, Lorenzo Cain, same results to start, as Shaw fell behind 2-0 for a third straight batter before coming back to strike out the Royals cleanup man. Catcher and hero Perez didn’t get a ball for his first pitch; instead, he got a hanger in his nitro zone and he blasted the first pitch over the wall in left-center for the game-changing two-run shot to give Kansas City their first lead of the night.
Shaw (0-3, 5.68 ERA) fell behind two balls to Kendrys Morales before getting a grounder to short to end the inning, but the damage was already done.
The Indians threatened in the ninth with no Wade Davis available for Kansas City after appearing in three straight games. With two outs against Joakim Soria (3-2, 3.23) in his second inning of relief, Rajai Davis singled to left. He stole second in a close play with Carlos Santana at the plate before the Indians designated hitter drew a walk and was lifted for Michael Martinez. With the tying run in scoring position, Jason Kipnis popped to third to end it.
Cleveland (35-29) falls to 4-5 on their road trip and has now lost three of its last four. Kansas City (34-30) cuts the Indians lead in the AL Central down to just one game with the victory and has won four straight games. The Royals improve to 21-7 at home this year with their eighth straight win in Kansas City.
The Tribe took the lead in the third against Royals starter Chris Young. Santana, leading off the inning, went yard to right, the fifth solo shot Young has given up in his last two starts to Cleveland.
Monday night’s hero, Whit Merrifield, took Tomlin deep with one down in the bottom of the frame to tie the game at one. One night after hitting his first Major League home run, he has now homered in consecutive games for the first time as a big leaguer.
The Indians reclaimed the lead in the fifth, with a defensive faux pas coming to their aid. Tyler Naquin struck out against Young to start the inning before Davis walked. Davis stole second base before Santana popped up a ball in foul territory near the plate. Perez and third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert converged and, instead of colliding like they did recently to knock Perez out of action for days, the two miscommunicated and the ball bounced between them foul. Santana would draw a walk with his extra pitches, ending Young’s day. Dillon Gee relieved and promptly gave up a go-ahead single to Kipnis, knocking in Davis for the team’s second run.
TOMLIN EFFECTIVE IN NO-DECISION
Tomlin, in pursuit of his ninth win of the year, was dealt the no-decision via the blown save and loss by Shaw. The Indians stopper did his part on Tuesday, throwing seven innings of one-run ball. He allowed seven hits, issued no walks, and struck out five.
“He commanded. He competed. He changed speeds,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “We didn’t always help him. We had one inning where, man, he gets a big pop up and all of a sudden it’s second and third and he pitched out of that. There were some high leverage innings just because the score of the game, but he was terrific.”
The missed win would have been Tomlin’s third of the season over the Royals.
YOUNG CONTAINS TRIBE ON PITCH COUNT
Prior to the game, Ned Yost acknowledged that Young would pitch around 85 pitches on the night. He left after 87, with 47 of them for strikes. In four and one-third innings worked, he allowed two runs on five hits, walked four, and struck out four.
PEREZ PLAYS HERO
Catcher Perez, the American League’s current vote leader in the All-Star balloting, was 2-for-4 on the night with a double off of Tomlin and his big two-run blast off of Shaw.
He was 1-for-12 against Shaw in his career prior to the game-winner Tuesday night. The homer ended a streak of eleven consecutive solo shots hit by the Royals club.
SHAW’S STRUGGLES CONTINUE
Shaw went one inning in the loss, giving up two runs on two hits while striking out one.
“The first few hitters, he had to climb back into the count,” said Francona. “Hosmer, you know, that’s a good pitch. We probably need to make that play. But after falling behind, he threw Salvador what looked like middle-in and that’s the one pitch he really hits because he’s never had much success against Shaw going into that at bat. In a game like that, one mistake beats you.”
Shaw has now had three straight tough outings, with two of them costing the Indians games late. He allowed a solo home run with a three-run lead in the eighth inning on Thursday in Seattle. Two days later, immediately after the Indians scored three runs in the ninth to tie the game in Anaheim, he allowed a single, a sacrifice, a walk, and a game-winning broken bat blooper to lose it.
“His stuff has been real good,” Francona continued. “I just think he’s made more mistakes than we’re accustomed to seeing and it’s led to runs at times. He had a nice run…and then the last three. And there’s always… it’s not just one thing. In Anaheim, there was a bloop. There’s factors, but you know I think the one occurring thing when he has a tough time is that he’s falling behind in the count.”
He has given up seven home runs this season in 25 1/3 innings of work. His career high is eight, given up last season in 64 innings on the mound.
KIPNIS STILL STEADY IN JUNE
Kipnis has now hit in ten of the 13 games he has played in June this season. He was 1-for-4 on the night, dropping his average for June to .302.
Cleveland picked off three bases in four tries on the night against Perez and the Royals pitching staff. Davis stole two, giving him 17 for the year in 20 attempts. He had 18 all of last season in 26 tries.
With his theft of second in the second, Naquin got his first MLB stolen base. Lindor was caught stealing, picked off between second and third base by Young, when he went on first movement with one out in the third.
ODDS WERE IN TRIBE’S FAVOR
The Indians fall to 26-7 on the season when scoring first in a game.
Corey Kluber (6-6, 3.65) will take the ball on Wednesday night, looking to help the Indians avoid the series sweep in KC and to salvage a .500 road trip. Ian Kennedy (4-5, 4.06) will counter for Kansas City.
First pitch of the series finale in Missouri is scheduled for 8:15 PM ET.
Photo: John Sleezer/KCStar.com