The Cleveland Indians played like a team on the final day of a ten-game road trip and one enduring a span of 20 games in 20 days as the Kansas City Royals unloaded on the Tribe for seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings on the way to a 9-4 win.
Defense was spotty, offensive production was hard to find, and the pitching was not up to par as the Indians were swept by the Royals in a bit of payback for the four-game sweep at Progressive Field the last time the two clubs met.
The World Champs jumped on top against Indians ace Corey Kluber in the first, putting a two-spot on the board using a pair of extra base hits. Whit Merrifield singled and was sacrificed to second by Alcides Escobar. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain followed with back-to-back doubles to give the Royals a 2-0 lead.
After missing on some opportunities in the second and third innings, the Indians struck through against Ian Kennedy in the fifth to even up the score. With two outs, Michael Martinez reached on an infield single at first as Kennedy did not get to the bag to cover. Rajai Davis immediately made the Royals pay, delivering a two-out, two-run homer to left to tie the game at two.
Kansas City got back to work in the bottom half and tore the game wide open. Drew Butera dropped a double between Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall in right-center. After a lineout from Merrifield, Escobar moved Butera to third on a grounder. With two outs and a 1-2 count to Hosmer, Kluber bounced one that catcher Yan Gomes could not get to, allowing Butera to score. With the bases now empty, Hosmer grounded sharply to Martinez at third base. His throw to Mike Napoli at first was in the dirt. Cain singled Hosmer to third with a hit to right to put runners on the corners and Tuesday night’s hero, Salvador Perez, crushed another one to deep center for a three-run shot to make it a 6-2 ball game.
As if the four-run lead was not enough, the Royals tacked on in the bottom of the sixth. Christian Colon singled to right. Butera followed with a single of his own, ending Kluber’s evening. Dan Otero relieved and allowed a bloop to right by Merrifield to make it 7-2. Escobar singled to load the bases and manager Terry Francona went to Tom Gorzelanny. Hosmer grounded into a potential double play ball, but it skipped off of Kipnis at second. Lindor, backing him up on the play, fielded and threw out Hosmer, but another run scored on the first out of the inning. Cain was intentionally walked and Jeff Manship, the fourth pitcher of the inning, was called upon from the bullpen. He struck out Perez but walked Cheslor Cuthbert to force in the ninth run of the game. Reymond Fuentes grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the onslaught as all nine Royals batted in the frame.
Kennedy came back out for the seventh and was around the zone, giving up a one-out walk to Naquin before Martinez slugged a homer to right-center, his first of the season, to make it a 9-4 game. After striking out Davis swinging, Kennedy handed the game over to his bullpen, who retired the final seven batters they faced in order.
The Indians (35-30) conclude their road trip with a 4-6 record and end it with the three-game sweep by the Royals. The two clubs are now tied for first place in the American League Central, as the Royals (35-30) improved to 22-7 at Kauffman Stadium this season.
“We didn’t play very well. I think that’s on me,” said Francona. “They weren’t prepared to play tonight. I guarantee that’ll change.”
Kennedy (5-5, 4.17 ERA) recorded his second win of the season in three tries against the Indians. He pitched six and two-thirds innings and was given a big lead to work with. He allowed four runs on five hits (two home runs), walked two, hit one, and struck out six.
PEREZ ON FIRE IN SERIES
Perez punished Cleveland pitching this series and extended his hitting streak to seven straight games with his home run, his second in as many nights and his fourth in the last six days. He was 6-for-12 against Indians pitching this week with a double, the two homers, and five runs batted in. He is 13-for-28 (.464) during his hitting streak.
Recent history does not predict good results for Kluber (6-7, 4.23) when starting after a complete game effort. He pitched into the sixth, but did not retire a batter that inning, and finished his day with eight earned runs charged to him on nine hits. He walked one and struck out seven.
“We really made it hard on him,” said Francona of Kluber’s outing. “They got a couple in the first inning. And then after that, he was settling down and missing some bats. And then we made it so hard, between making some errors, not making some plays. It was like he was fighting for everything and we were making it harder on him. That’s tough. Tough night all around.”
The bottom of the third inning was a solid one and a bit of a historic one for Kluber. With his strikeout of Hosmer to start the inning and Cain for out number two, he reached 800 career strikeouts.
MARTINEZ’S BIG GAME
Defensively, Martinez did not have the best of days at third base, committing his second error and failing to get back on a potential force play at third on a bunted ball in the middle innings. At the plate, he had more hits than the rest of the Cleveland lineup combined, going 3-for-3 with two singles, his first homer, two runs scored, and two runs batted in.
The Indians’ second utility guy is now hitting .310 on the year.
CHANGE OF FORTUNE
The Royals scored 13 runs during their eight-game losing skid. They have scored 14 this week.
Prior to the game, Kansas City designated veteran second baseman Omar Infante for assignment. Left-handed reliever Brian Flynn was added in his vacated roster spot.
LITTLE REST FOR TRIBE THE LAST MONTH
Much has been made about the 20 straight games that the Indians have played. Francona was not as pleased with the effort by his club and was not in the mood to make excuses in his postgame presser.
“Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. We have a day off tomorrow,” said Francona when asked. “When you show up, when you have a game you play. We’re not the first team to play 20 and won’t be the last. We just didn’t play a very good ball game.”
The Indians have now played 34 games in the last 34 days, including one day off and one doubleheader against the White Sox (h/t to Joel Hammond, Indians Assistant Director, Communications, via Twitter).
Next up for the Tribe? A day off.
They will resume action on Friday night, when they start a six-game homestand and three-game series with the Chicago White Sox. Left-hander Jose Quintana (5-7, 2.66) will start for the White Sox, while Trevor Bauer (4-2, 3.69) will oppose for the Tribe.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: John Sleezer/KCStar.com