Indians drop another to Royals, 6-2 to lose three-game series
Kazmir, offense struggles doom Tribe, as Shields steps up big
CLEVELAND—Big game? Not a problem for Big Game James.
Royals starter James Shields (11-9, 3.38 ERA) lived up to his nickname Wednesday afternoon, as he shutdown the Indians offense to two runs on just two hits defeating the Tribe, 6-2. In the rubber match with wild card hopes very much alive for both clubs, Kansas City sneaks out of town winning the final two games of the three-game series.
“We didn’t give up on him, we tried to fight against him,” Indians center fielder Michael Bourn said. “He got a lead there and when he got it, it felt like he was a bulldog out there.”
Both offenses erupted right from the very first inning, but it was the Royals punch that came up with the bigger blow. Left fielder Alex Gordon took Tribe starter Scott Kazmir deep on the very first pitch of the ballgame to give K.C. the lead early.
They weren’t finished, as Drew Stubbs allowed second baseman Emilio Bonifacio to leg out a triple on a ball he missed on a slide attempt in right field. The mistake proved costly one batter later when Eric Hosmer yanked a first pitch RBI single up the middle for a 2-0 lead.
Able to record the first two outs of the game, Kansas City center fielder Lorenzo Cain capped off a three run first with a RBI base hit of his own off Kazmir to close out a 33 pitch inning.
“That type of stuff happens,” Kazmir said. “It was a little frustrating after that, I was just trying to go out there and battle to get as deep as I could and keep it at that deficit.”
Coming off a season-high 12 strikeout performance against the New York Mets in his previous start, Kazmir (8-8, 4.24 ERA) received some run support in the home half of the first.
A single by Bourn and a hit by pitch to Mike Aviles put the first two runners on to start the inning. With two outs,Michael Brantley came through in the clutch with a two-run single past Shields to cut the Royals lead to one.
“At the time it was a big hit to crawl right back in the game,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said.
Coming up smooth with runners in scoring position all season long, Brantley is now hitting .359 with RISP.
Even though things looked up early, that would be all the runs and hits the Indians would get off Shields until the ninth, as the Royals ace went eight strong innings allowing just the two runs on two hits for his 11th victory. After allowing the hit to Brantley, Tribe hitters went 0-for-23 off Big Game James through the next seven innings.
“He threw all his pitches in and out and stayed out of the middle, changing speeds real well,” Francona said. “We never really got much going.”
Shields had just two wins to his name through his first 16 starts to start the 2013 season. Since then the right-hander is 7-2 with a 3.91 ERA over his last 15 starts.
“The Shields that I know and remember never left,” Kazmir said. “He was always there, he pitched a great game.”
Kazmir and Shields were teammates on the Tampa Bay Rays for four years from 2006-2009.
“Overall it was a frustrating day for all of us out there,” the Tribe lefty said. “There’s really no excuse, we have to go out there and get the job done and we didn’t today.”
Kazmir wouldn’t escape the fourth inning, allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits for only his second loss at Progressive Field this season. A throwing error on a pickoff attempt lead to another Royals run on a when designated hitter Billy Butler grounded into a double play off reliever Brian Shaw.
“When you’re getting a couple three hits or four hits, you can’t give teams extra opportunities actually ever,” Francona said. “We gave up too much today and it hurt us.”
Rich Hill allowed another Kansas City run to score the same way, as he threw the ball away on a pickoff play in the seventh. It was the second of three pitching errors in the contest.
Royals closer Greg Holland picked up his 42nd save with an easy ninth, as the Tribe finished the ballgame with two runs on only four hits. Cleveland falls to 14-51 on the season when scoring three runs or less.
“Offense is not the key to winning, I mean it is and has something to do with it, but pitching is the number one thing in anything,” Bourn said.
After averaging 6.75 runs per game on their recent four-game win streak, the Indians have averaged just 2.5 runs over their last four games.
At 78-68 with 17 games left in the regular season, Cleveland will sit at most 2.5 games out of the wild card with a Rays loss. Kansas City has a chance to leapfrog the Tribe if Tampa Bay loses tonight.
“They’re a real good team, they’re right where we are,” Bourn said. “We hung on in the first game and then they beat us twice so now we have to go play well tomorrow.”
The Indians will now travel to Chicago to take on the last place White Sox in a four-game series beginning Thursday. Right-hander Corey Kluber (8-5, 3.54 ERA) takes the hill against Chicago lefty John Danks (4-12, 4.45 ERA).
“There’s no reason to look down the road now, the next one is the most important one,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. Every loss is frustrating at this point, no matter where you’re at in the season. As long as we keep going out there and giving a good effort winning some games, I think we’ll like where we’re are at the end.”
Bourn agreed with his teammate.
“It’s not harder because they’re in it, it’s harder because we’re in it,” he said. “We still got 17 games left, if we can get things going, I think we have a chance to be playing in October. Every game is a meaningful game for us from here on out.”
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.