The Indians and starter Mike Clevinger squandered an early four-run lead as the Kansas City Royals scored six unanswered runs to knock off Cleveland, 6-4, in the series opener on Friday night.
What looked like a safe lead against the Major’s lowest scoring team turned into a mess for the Tribe in game four of their season series with the Royals as KC cleared the wall twice in the middle innings and got a big two-run double in the eighth to claim a victory at Progressive Field as the Indians’ home woes continued.
The Indians jumped out to their early lead with two outs in the second inning against Kansas City starter Ian Kennedy, who had set down the first five in order. After falling behind 3-1 to Jose Ramirez, the little slugger blasted a homer deep into the seats in right to put Cleveland in front, 1-0.
Clevinger had allowed just two runners through the first three innings after a first inning double by Lorenzo Cain and an infield single by Whit Merrifield in the third (the latter extended his hitting streak to eleven games). The Indians exceeded the Royals’ early efforts in one inning in the bottom of the third as they padded their lead. Bradley Zimmer and Daniel Robertson each drew walks to start the frame. After a fly to left by Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor drove in the second run of the night with a single to center to extend his hitting streak to eleven straight. Robertson scored several pitches later on a single off of the wall in right by Michael Brantley to make it 3-0 as the Indians left fielder pushed his own streak to ten straight for the second time this season. A fielder’s choice force at second pushed home Lindor with the fourth run and the Tribe had what appeared to be a healthy lead heading into the middle innings.
Eric Hosmer changed that in the fourth when he reached on his one-out, late swing dribbler between the mound and the third base line. With a runner on first, Clevinger notched his fourth strikeout of the night, retiring Salvador Perez for the second out. Jorge Bonifacio kept the inning going with a single to right and Brandon Moss made his ex-teammates pay with a three-run blast to right to cut the Royals’ deficit to just one run. After a second single on the night by Merrifield, Clevinger struck out Alex Gordon swinging, but the damage was certainly done.
The Royals completed the comeback in the fifth, when Mike Moustakas parked a Clevinger offering into the right field seats, a hot spot on the evening for souvenirs as his solo blast tied the game at four.
The score would remain the same until the eighth, when the Royals mounted their takeover against some unusual suspects. After a leadoff single by Cain off of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller was called upon from the bullpen. Hosmer sent a sinking shot in the direction of Lindor at short, but the usually reliable Platinum Glover had the ball skip under his glove and into left field for an error, putting runners on the corners. Perez fouled out to Santana at first for the first out, but Bonifacio delivered a game-changing two-run double to left-center just past Brantley to clear the bases of both runners and give the Royals a 6-4 lead.
The Indians would put up a little resistance in the final two frames, but would be unsuccessful in driving a runner across the plate against the Royals bullpen. Lindor singled and Brantley walked with one out in the eighth against Joakim Soria, but Santana lined out and Encarnacion struck out to send the game to the ninth. Zimmer reached with a two-out single off of closer Kelvin Herrera in the bottom of the ninth, but newly activated Austin Jackson pinch-hit and struck out to end the ball game.
The defeat dropped the Indians to 24-22 on the season and an unsettling 8-12 at Progressive Field this season. The win pushed the Royals to the 20-win mark at 20-27 on the season, but just 8-16 on the road. Mike Minor earned the win with two innings in relief to improve to 2-1 on the season, while Shaw took his first loss of the year as the man responsible for the fifth KC run to cross, inherited by Miller. Herrera’s save was his tenth of the season.
Clevinger took the no-decision, hurt by the two home run balls. He worked five-plus innings on the night, allowing four runs on eight hits with a walk and six strikeouts. Miller allowed two runs to score, one of which was credited to him, pushing his ERA to 0.72 on the season.
The two teams will meet for game two of the three-game series on Saturday afternoon in a 4:10 PM ET start. Righty Danny Salazar (3-4, 5.55 ERA) will get the starting nod for the Indians, looking to end the team’s two-game skid. He is 7-6 in his career against the Royals, but lost his first start against them in a short outing, lasting four and two-thirds innings while allowing two runs on eight hits. Left-hander Jason Vargas (5-3, 2.30) will get the call for Ned Yost’s Royals. He has been one of the top pitchers in the league this season, but is coming off of consecutive losses to the New York Yankees despite a quality effort his last time out.
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