When the Indians look back on their first two and a half months of the 2014 season, they are going to lament the amount of games that they both failed to come through in ample opportunities at the plate and made defensive blunders that cost them runs.
Wednesday afternoon’s loss in Kansas City was the latest example. A night prior, Asdrubal Cabrera’s dropped throw on a double play ball and Carlos Santana’s bobble of a second double play grounder in the same inning opened the flood gates to a four run KC inning. Wednesday afternoon, the little things killed them again.
Trevor Bauer ran into a little trouble in the third inning. Mike Moustakas, who can’t seem to hit against anyone other than the Indians, doubled to open the inning. Alcides Escobar followed with a single up the middle. Tribe center fielder Michael Bourn came up firing to home and Moustakas was held at third. That was all well and good, except Bourn completely missed the cut off man, allowing Escobar to glide into second. Jarrod Dyson’s sac fly scored Moustakas for the game’s first run. Nori Aoki followed with a single to left, which advanced Escobar to third. Once again, had Bourn hit his cutoff man, Escobar would still be on second.
That’s when Omar Infante stepped to the plate. True story. I am watching the game here at my desk and Infante pops one up to short. I turn around, assuming the ball is caught for the key second out, which it was. Except Mike Aviles battling the sun, nearly dropped it, before catching the ball an falling to his backside. Escobar – who again shouldn’t have been on third if Bourn hits the cutoff man – took off for home. Aviles threw to the plate from his behind and couldn’t get enough juice on it. Bauer cut it off and threw home, but Escobar was safe. I turned back and looked up to see the score was 2-0 Royals.
“I had glasses on, but everybody knows if the ball’s in the middle of the sun, it doesn’t matter what glasses you have,” Aviles said.
Only this Tribe defense could see a sac fly on a pop out to the shortstop.
“I saw Aviles was struggling for a moment with the sun, and when he caught the ball and went down to the grass, I said ‘I’m going because he needs to get up again and make a perfect throw.’ That’s a hard play,” Escobar said.
A third Royals sac fly came in the fourth and again, this one was aided by bad Tribe defense. With one out, Salvador Perez doubled and Moustakas singled. Escobar was next. He popped one that stayed in play near the first base dugout. Santana was there. He looked up, then down, then up again, then down again, and failed to make the catch. On the next pitch, Escobar sent a deep fly ball to center, which scored Perez.
Bauer struggled but managed to pitch into the sixth, giving up three runs on seven hits. He struck out just one and walked one in 93 pitches.
The offense had a hard time solving KC stud rookie Yordano Ventura. It wasn’t until the sixth that they even scratched anything together. Back to back singles from Bourn and Lonnie Chisenhall put them in business. They stayed stranded until Santana ripped a single over first baseman Eric Hosmer which scored Bourn. At 3-1, they were certainly in striking distance.
John Axford came on to pitch the seventh and gave up a run on KC’s fourth sac fly of the game, this one by Billy Butler. But the Indians still had two more shots.
Facing Wade Davis, who had an 18 inning scoreless streak working, it looked like they were going to finally explode. Bourn singled, Chisenhall walked, and Brantley singled to load the bases with nobody out. With the 4-5-6 batters due up, you had to think the Tribe would get at least something. It just wasn’t meant to be on this one.
Davis froze Kipnis on a called third strike, then came back to K Santana. David Murphy was the Tribe’s last hope and he grounded out weakly to second.
“I liked where we were, and who we had up, but there’s a reason that guy’s given up 11 hits and has got about 47 strikeouts,” Francona said of Davis.
That was all she wrote as Greg Holland pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to give the Royals a sweep of this mini two-game series.
The Tribe fell back to the .500 mark at 33-33 while the Royals jumped ahead of them for second place in the AL Central at 33-32. This 10-game, three-city trip now sits at 3-3 with four games to be played in Boston starting tomorrow night. It won’t be easy as lefty Jon Lester (6-7, 3.52) awaits them at Fenway. He will be faced by the Tribe’s Josh Tomlin (4-2, 3.12 ERA).