For the second time this week, the Wahoos had a chance to get into the lead for the second Wild Card spot with a win. They started the night a half game behind both Texas and Tampa Bay. The rookie Danny Salazar got the ball from manager Terry Francona, who knew that at some point earlier than he would like, his bullpen would come into play with Salazar still on a strict pitch count.
It didn’t look as if Danny would be long for this game in the first inning. After retiring the first two Royals on groundouts, Eric Hosmer singled. Billy Butler, a thorn in the Tribe’s side all series, followed with a walk, sending Salvador Perez to the plate. The KC catcher who to me looks like Victor Martinez version 2.o, laced a double to the wall in left. Michael Brantley fired into shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera who had Butler dead to rights at home. However, Cabrera’s throw short hopped catcher Yan Gomes who couldn’t make the scoop and tag for what would have been the third out. Another in a long line of bad defensive plays Asdrubal has made this season. It is not a tough throw and Cabrera couldn’t even hit Gomes on the fly.
Perez advanced to third and then came home on a Salazar wild pitch. Instead of exiting the first trailing just 1-0, the Tribe now had to climb out of a three-run hole.
In the third they got right back into the game. Facing lefty Bruce Chen, Gomes led off with a bloop single and scored on Michael Brantley’s double, aided by an error from centerfielder Jarrod Dyson. Mike Aviles sacrificed Brantley over to third and Michael Bourn scored him on a sac fly. At 3-2, the Tribe was back in business.
Salazar kept the Royals at bay until the fifth, when again the defense failed him. Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon hit a pair of one-out singles to put runners on the corners. Gordon would take off for second in a steal attempt. Yan Gomes paused before making a throw and eventually caught Gordon in a run down. The play started out well for the Indians as Nick Swisher saw Escobar off the bag at third and fired across the diamond to Aviles, who now had Escobar in a rundown. Aviles threw to Gomes who for some reason was trying to see what Gordon was doing and failed to tag Escobar, who went to the ground to avoid the tag. He slipped through and would score a run.
“I kind of peeked to see if Gordon was going to third base,” Gomes said. “It was a pretty disappointing play on my part. It kind of turned out to be a pretty [big] momentum play for them, so it was kind of tough to swallow.”
So if you are scoring at home, that is three Royals runs that should not have scored had the Indians made the easy defensive plays that they should have.
Offensively it was a struggle as well. Now trailing 4-2 in the sixth, the Indians had their big chance. Bourn singled and Swisher walked to open the frame, chasing Chen from the game. Royals manager Ned Yost called on lefty Francisley Bueno to face the struggling Jason Kipnis. Kipnis would lay down a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners up. The Indians now had two chances to bring the tying runs in. Carlos Santana had the first shot and for some reason, he swung at the first pitch and weakly grounded to third. Bueno was replaced by Louis Coleman with Ryan Raburn due up. He has come up big so many times this year, but in this spot, Raburn flew out to right field.
That would be the last we would hear from the bats.
The Royals would tack on three insurance runs in the eighth against a bevy of extended roster relievers. C.C. Lee came on first. Butler hit an infield single to short which Cabrera never seemed to get a good grip on. Perez followed by sending a lazy fly ball to right which Raburn proceeded to drop. He had pinch runner Chris Getz nailed at second, but his throw was way off line. The flood gates now opened. Nick Hagadone came on to face the lefty Mike Moustakas, who sacrificed Getz and Perez into scoring position. Lorenzo Cain was intentionally walked to load the bases for Dyson. It was a curious move considering Hagadone’s propensity for wildness. He worked the count full before walking. At 5-2, Francona called on Carlos Carrasco to stop the bleeding, but it didn’t work as Escobar singled home two more Royals.
It was all over but the shouting at that point.
Salazar took the loss, but pitched six strong innings, throwing 82 pitches. He was charged with four earned runs, but he deserved a better fate; the defense behind him was brutal.
“We had chances,” Francona said. “We just didn’t make enough plays. We had some plays that we probably need to make in a game like that, and we didn’t do it.”
The bottom line here is that the Indians may have lost two of three in KC, but they didn’t lose any ground in the Wild Card standings. They still sit a half game back of Texas for the second spot and now get start their final 10 games of the season against the AL’s three worst teams.
“We can’t take any teams lightly,” Gomes said. “We’ve got to be able to come out and play a good series against Houston. Then, we’ve got Chicago again. We need to finish the year good so we have a chance to play in the postseason.”
Things get started tonight. Come out and support this team. They are so close. They deserve big crowds this weekend. We are fighting for our playoff lives here while the team down at the lake front that gets the blind loyalty from everyone just cashed in another season three weeks in. Channel your energies and focus to the right place – the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.49 ERA), the Tribe’s hottest pitcher, gets the start and will look to get the Tribe back to its winning ways. He will face off with lefty Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 5.27 ERA). Houston comes in losers of five in a row, including last night’s 6-5, 13 inning loss to Cincinnati where they used five relievers. It was their 101st loss of the season.