“Why does everyone talk about the past? All that counts is tomorrow’s game.” – Roberto Clemente
Extra outs given to the Kansas City Royals, defensive miscues for a second straight night by the usually staunch Cleveland defense, and a missing Indians offense added up to a 3-0 Tribe loss on Wednesday night.
On a day that Major League Baseball honored the life and legacy of legendary Pittsburgh Pirate Roberto Clemente, the Indians forgot how to do offense and defense, two particular pieces of the game of baseball that the beloved outfielder is well remembered for. On a day that the Milwaukee Brewers ran up 19 runs on the Detroit Tigers and the Atlanta Braves plated eleven in one inning against the New York Mets, the Indians were blanked on six hits by a pitching staff not exactly well-known for dominance this season.
In addition to their six hits, the Indians drew four walks and struck out six times against the Royals’ quartet of starter Danny Duffy, relievers Jesse Hahn and Josh Staumont, and closer Greg Holland. The four limited the Indians to an 0-for-5 effort with runners in scoring position while stranding ten men. The Royals, by comparison, went 2-for-9 in similar situations while stranding six, using ten hits and some perfect hit placement to knock out the Tribe for the second straight night.
“We’re not hitting with guys on base, obviously. You can see that in the score today,” Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said after the game. “We left ten guys on base. I think we’re trying too hard. We just need to put the ball in play. Watching the Royals players, they try to make contact with two strikes and not try to get too big. Some of those guys put the ball in play with men in scoring position and do a good job. Obviously we didn’t. Sometimes we get too big when they’re in scoring position.”
There were a few positive takeaways from the events that unfolded at Progressive Field on Wednesday. Carlos Carrasco was stellar and did his job to the best of his ability until the men behind him in the field failed him. Even then, he left with seven solid innings of work on the mound, allowing just a run on seven hits with six strikeouts (moving him past both Bob Lemon and Early Wynn into fourth place on the team’s all-time strikeout list). Maybe most importantly, Carrasco issued no walks while working ahead of 21 of the 27 men that he faced. He had good movement on his stuff, he induced 15 swings and misses, and he got stuck with the loss, his fourth of the year, as his teammates could not figure out the left-hander Duffy, a pitcher who the Indians have owned for stretches of his ten-year career.
“He was pretty good. A couple of miscues cost him more pitches but he was able to go back out there,” said Alomar Jr. of Carrasco’s outing in defeat. “He’s not picking too much anymore. He’s more attacking guys, aggressively attacking guys, but also putting away attacking guys.”
Delino DeShields went 3-for-4 on the night. He singled against Duffy in the third with one out, but was stranded. He singled again with a runner on first in the fifth, but was left at second with the bases loaded as the Indians failed to deliver in their best scoring opportunity of the night. He lined out to reliever Hahn to strand a pair in the sixth, but he kept some hope alive in the ninth with a triple to the left-center gap off of Holland. He moved no further as Cesar Hernandez lined out three pitches later.
Baseball took time to honor Clemente, allowing players to wear the number 21 instead of their previously assigned numbers (marking the first time an Indians player had worn the number on the field since the team retired Lemon’s jersey number in 1998; Mike Hargrove was wearing the number at the time as the team’s manager after wearing it during his own playing career). Among those to wear it included Carrasco (who won the Clemente Award last season for his off-the-field contributions), battery mate Roberto Perez (a native of Puerto Rico), shortstop Francisco Lindor (another player born in Puerto Rico), and closer Brad Hand (named the team’s nominee for the Clemente Award this season for his charitable efforts). Assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez and manager Sandy Alomar Jr. (whose six All-Star appearances are seventh-most among all players born in Puerto Rico) also represented 21 in the dugout as a pair of Puerto Rican natives.
Jose Ramirez was back in the Tribe lineup after resting a bruised left thumb. But with the good news came bad news, as while he felt comfortable hitting from the right side of the plate and was going to have that chance against the southpaw Duffy, he was not feeling as well from the left side and got yoked with one down in the bottom of the seventh against Hahn, relieved by pinch-hitter Mike Freeman, who promptly grounded his second pitch seen to first.
The Royals were held in check for much of the night. Carrasco struck out a pair in both the first and second innings. Nicky Lopez started a big night at the plate with a leadoff single to right in the third, but he was caught stealing. Carrasco retired the side in order in the fourth and got the first two in the fifth before Edward Olivares singled to left. Lopez singled to right and Olivares moved to third, but Lopez tried to sneak into second and was nabbed on a throw from Ramirez to Lindor (called an out after an Indians’ replay challenge).
Duffy kept the Indians down and dodged his way out of the couple of threats that he saw. After a 1-2-3 first, Carlos Santana drew a leadoff walk in the second, but he was left at first as Duffy got the next three in order. DeShields singled in the third before he was stranded. A Franmil Reyes two-out walk and a double by Jordan Luplow had the Indians threatening in the fourth, but Oscar Mercado struck out swinging to end the threat. Perez walked to start the fifth before DeShields’ second single. Hernandez sacrificed the pair over and Ramirez walked to load the bases, but Lindor flied to center before Santana’s strikeout.
The Royals got to Carrasco for a run in the sixth. Cam Gallagher perfectly placed a single to left-center and moved to third on a base hit to right-center by Whit Merrifield. Adalberto Mondesi made it 1-0 with a single in front of Luplow in right. Hunter Dozier struck out on a changeup below the zone for the first out. Maikel Franco grounded to a charging Ramirez at third. He stepped on the bag for the force and threw across the diamond, but his throw was wide of first and pulled Santana well off of the bag, keeping the inning alive and forcing Carrasco to make more pitches. Alex Gordon grounded to Hernandez deep at second, but he misplayed the ball to load the bases. Carrasco eventually worked out of it, retiring Matt Reynolds on a fly to right.
The Indians left two in the sixth on DeShields’ lineout to the mound. Carrasco pitched a perfect final inning in the top of the seventh and Hahn matched it in the home half. Nick Wittgren and Staumont threw 1-2-3 eighths to send the game to the ninth.
An oddly bouncing ball turned into two more runs for the Royals in the top of the ninth against Phil Maton. After getting the first out, Maton gave up a single against the shift to third by Gordon. Ryan O’Hearn was cut down swinging for the second out, but a base hit to right by Olivares turned into a triple as the ball appeared to bounce off of something as Tyler Naquin tried to field the ball. It went to the wall, allowing Gordon to score and Olivares to move to third. He scored on Lopez’s third base hit of the game to make it 3-0, and Holland locked down his third save in the bottom half, giving up the DeShields’ triple while striking out a batter.
The Indians (26-17) will look to end their two-game skid on Thursday in the series and season finales between Cleveland and Kansas City (16-28). Aaron Civale (3-4, 3.63 ERA) will look to play the role of stopper for Cleveland, while KC will counter with rookie right-hander Brady Singer (1-4, 5.58 ERA), who faced the Indians in his MLB debut earlier this season.
Game time from Progressive Field is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET on Thursday.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images