You can’t win them all, but it would sure be nice to. As we said before the Tribe entered the final month of the season, littered with teams they should be able to handle, if they just take two out of every three the rest of the way, they should be playing October baseball. Well that theory will surely be tested as the Indians dropped one to the Kansas City Royals last night 6-3.
Make no mistake about it, the Royals are a good team. Look up and down that lineup and it is more impressive than the Tribe’s. Their bullpen by the numbers is the best in the American League and their rotation is solid. However, they still have that “Kansas City Royals” factor attached to them. This has been their best season in a decade. The last time they finished over .500 was 2003 when they went 83-79. After last night’s win in Cleveland, the Royals have made it a four team race for the last Wild Card Spot.
This one started off looking like things would go the Tribe’s way. With two outs in the bottom of the first, three straight singles by Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and Michael Brantley off of Jeremy Guthrie to put them on top 1-0. Dr. Smooth came through with yet another clutch, two-out RBI. He is now hitting .328 in those spots (19-58) with 23 runs batted in. But then, they started to strand and erase runners as if it were the month of August.
In the second, Lonnie Chisenhall was left on base after a two-out double. In the third, Nick Swisher and Santana both singled, giving Brantley another shot with two on and one out. He would hit into a tailor made 4-6-3 double play. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the fourth with a single but was quickly erased on Yan Gomes’s double play ball. Chisenhall started the fifth with a single but never moved. Cabrera ended the sixth by grounding into the Tribe’s third double play of the game.
“We got some hits but didn’t bunch them together,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “It seemed like we were one big hit from doing some damage. We gave ourselves chances in a lot of innings.”
Meanwhile, Zach McAllister was pitching well through five innings allowing just one run on three hits. Alcedes Escobar took him deep in the fifth to tie the game at one. But through this point in the game, the Tribe was getting another stellar performance from their starter. However things drastically changed in the sixth. The Zach Attack started to leave everything up in the zone and the Royals jumped all over him. Eric Hosmer opened the frame with a walk. Billy Butler followed with a double to left. Next was Mike Moustakas, who broke an 0-16 slump with a two-run double to right. Salvador Perez then singled back up the middle to make it 4-1 and McAllister’s night was over that quickly.
“He didn’t have his best changeup tonight,” Francona said. “Early in the game, they were very aggressive, and it kind of helped. They made some first-pitch outs. They hit some balls at people. … But then he left some balls up in that last inning.”
The Royals added a fifth run in the seventh on a Butler sac fly off of reliever CC Lee.
Give credit to the Tribe bats who attempted to make it interesting against KC’s Kelvin Herrera. Trailing 5-1 in the home half of the seventh, A Jason Kubel K was sandwiched by singles from Gomes and Chisenhall. Michael Bourn would find a gap in left-center scoring the Yanimal and pinch runner Jose Ramirez, who continues to make himself a factor down the stretch. With the tying run at the plate, KC manager Ned Yost took no chances and called on his best set up man, Luke Hochevar.
Hochevar struck out Swisher and Kipnis to stop the threat dead in its tracks. He then K’d the side in the eighth. It was an extremely impressive performance for the former #1 overall pick. Hochevar in 2013 is what I envision for Carlos Carrasco in 2014. He was a failed starter toiling for the Royals for years who was out of options. They moved him to the pen this season and he has been a stalwart with a 1.70 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP with 72 K’s in 63 innings of work.
“That’s as good as it gets, right there. He’s just been unbelievably good for us,” Yost said. “I hate to use the word dominant every time he comes out, but he’s borderline dominant every time he comes out.”
KC closer Greg Holland finished off the Tribe in the ninth for his 41st save. The good news is that with losses by Tampa Bay and Baltimore, the Indians lost no ground in the race for the second AL Wild Card spot. They remain tied with the Orioles a game and a half back of Tampa. The Yankees are now two back, the Royals are three behind.
Today’s 12:05 getaway day tilt is one of those “must-wins” we have talked about. Francona will hand the ball to Scott Kazmir (8-7, 4.17 ERA), who was brilliant his last time out, pitching six shutout innings against the Mets with 12 K’s. He will face off with the Royals ace, James Shields (10-9, 4.34 ERA). It is going to be a hot one down at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
“The games have changed,” Chisenhall said. “We’re so close to having something big happen here at the end of September.”
(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)