The Kansas City Royals got to Danny Salazar for a career-worst 12 hits as the Cleveland Indians dropped the final game of their four-city, 11-game road trip, 7-4, on Sunday afternoon.
It was not the usual suspects in the Royals lineup who provided the bulk of the damage but instead, the bottom portion of the starting nine as Kansas City put up 15 hits in total and ended a long scoreless streak at the plate. Salazar struggled with his command, despite walking just one, but he allowed the dozen hits and a half-dozen runs in just four and two-thirds innings.
After getting a pair of hits, but a costly double play ball in the first, the Royals had runners all over the bases in the second and took the lead. Mike Moustakas drew a leadoff walk and jogged into third base on a double to center by Jorge Bonifacio. Alcides Escobar singled home Moustakas with a hit to center to put the Royals up, 1-0. After a strikeout of Cheslor Cuthbert for the first out, Cam Gallagher singled to center to drive in the second run of the inning before Salazar got out of the jam.
The Indians, who had little success against Jason Hammel in his first two starts (both wins) against Cleveland earlier in the season, responded with a pair of runs in the top of the third. Bradley Zimmer dropped down a bunt single to third and stole second before Yan Gomes flied out to center. Francisco Lindor popped up behind the plate, but Gallagher was unable to make the catch, which proved costly on the very next pitch as Lindor homered off of the foul pole in right. His 20th homer of the season tied the game at two.
Cleveland took the lead the next inning. Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana each singled with one out to put runners on the corners for Austin Jackson. The Tribe outfielder lifted a fly to left that was caught by Melky Cabrera, but the veteran could not get a good grip on the ball and double clutched, allowing Bruce to score easily on the sacrifice fly to make it a 3-2 game.
The lead was short-lived for the Indians. Bonifacio reached on an infield single to short before he was doubled up on a grounder by Escobar. Cuthbert made up for the quick two outs, sending an 0-2 pitch over the wall in left for a game-tying solo shot. Salazar would minimize the damage after two straight two-out hits followed the homer, getting a grounder from Lorenzo Cain, but the game was tied at three.
The Indians stranded a two-out runner at second in the fifth before Salazar returned to the mound for what would be his final inning of work. Eric Hosmer singled to right to start the inning before Cabrera lined out and Moustakas struck out. Nearly out of it, Salazar gave up a single to center by Bonifacio to put two on for Escobar, who singled to right to give the Royals the lead, 4-3. Zach McAllister came on in relief, but his first offering was sent into right field for a two-out, two-run single by Cuthbert to give the Royals a 6-3 lead before the runner was tagged out trying to advance to second.
It would be enough for the Royals on Sunday, but they added another run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh off of Dan Otero as Escobar added to his productive day at the plate.
The Indians would not go down quietly in the ninth against closer Kelvin Herrera as Jackson led off the inning with a triple to the gap in left-center. Zimmer flied to shallow left before Gomes drove in the fourth run of the afternoon with a grounder to short. Lindor doubled to right to keep the inning alive, but Jason Kipnis flied to center to end the ball game.
The Indians fell to 68-54 with the defeat, but ended their lengthy road trip with a positive 8-3 record. Their lead in the AL Central shrank back to five games with a Minnesota sweep of Arizona on Sunday. The Royals moved a game back over even at 62-61 on the year and will take Monday off before the Colorado Rockies come to town for a tough three-game set.
Salazar truly struggled for the first time in six outings since coming off of the disabled list. He lasted just four and two-thirds, charged with six runs on 12 hits. He walked one and struck out five on the afternoon to drop to 5-6 on the season. He allowed more runs in his start than he had in his previous five outings combined.
Hammel hung around for the quality start and his sixth win of the season, including his third of the year against Cleveland. He allowed three runs on five hits, walked one, and struck out three.
The Indians wasted opportunities with men in scoring position, which factored heavily in the ball game. They were just 1-for-8 and stranded seven. The Royals, who were hitless in those situations in the series coming into the day, were 4-for-11 while stranding seven. Bonifacio, hitting sixth, had three hits and scored twice. Seven and eight hitters Escobar and Cuthbert each had two hits and three RBI. Gallagher added two hits from the ninth spot and drove home a run, despite some joint adventures chasing foul balls on the afternoon with Cuthbert.
The Indians will make their return to Progressive Field on Monday, starting a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox before the Royals come to Cleveland next weekend. Mike Clevinger (6-5, 3.75 ERA) will get the start for the Tribe against left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (4-3, 3.97).
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images