A short-handed lineup and an even shorter outing by starter Will Smith didn't help as the Royals fell 8-5 for their sixth straight defeat.
The losing streak is Kansas City's longest since a 12-game skid from April 11-24. That poor stretch ended any realistic chance the Royals had of being a factor in the AL Central, but they played .500 ball from that point through Sunday when the current losing streak began.
The Royals must win two of their final five games to top last season's 71-91 record. Manager Ned Yost would like to see his team finish up with some momentum.
"We'll see what we can do (Saturday)," he said.
Smith, making his last start of the season, was charged with six runs and didn't retire a batter in the fourth inning before being pulled. The Royals trailed 8-1 after five innings. Billy Butler's two-run homer in the sixth and Salvador Perez's two-run single in the eighth pulled Kansas City within three.
"The hole was big," Yost said. "We clawed back a little bit, enough to score five runs. It was just too big a hole."
The Indians played their first game under interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr., who took over after Manny Acta was fired Thursday.
"Obviously, not every day is going to be this way," Alomar said. "Some will be more stressful. Kansas City came back and made it interesting and it was, `OK, we've got to do some thinking here.' "
Smith (6-9) had beaten the Indians in both starts against them this season, including his first major league win at Progressive Field on May 29. The result was much different this time.
Asked what didn't work, Smith said, "Everything. Too many pitches up. I just wasn't controlling the ball. I left way too many pitches up. It was just one of those nights, I guess."
The rookie left-hander gave up two runs over seven innings in a 5-3 win over the Indians on Saturday.
The Royals played without first baseman Eric Hosmer and shortstop Alcides Escobar, who were sidelined with shoulder injuries sustained in Thursday's game with Detroit. Hosmer underwent an MRI on Friday. Yost said the results weren't available before the game, but the team didn't think there was anything seriously wrong.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas' fielding problems continued when he booted Russ Canzler's fourth-inning ground ball for his fourth error in two games. Moustakas committed three errors Thursday, including two on one play, breaking a 47-game errorless streak.
Butler home run came off David Huff, who beat the Royals for the second time this week. Butler has 29 homers and 106 RBIs for the season.
Huff (3-0) gave up three runs in six innings as Cleveland got its first three-game winning streak since July 3-5. Chris Perez closed Cleveland's fourth win in five games for his 39th save in 43 chances.
The Indians collected 16 hits, including a string of five straight with one out to score three runs off Smith in the second inning that wiped out the Royals' brief 1-0 lead.
"He didn't have much going," Yost said. "I hate for him to make his last start of the year not be a good one."
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cord Phelps and Ezequiel Carrera all had three hits for Cleveland.
Alex Gordon had three hits for Kansas City, which took a 1-0 lead on Adam Moore's RBI double in the second.
Cleveland made it 3-1 in the bottom half. Carrera had an RBI single and Shin-Soo Choo followed with a run-scoring double high off the wall in left. Cord Phelps then singled home Carrera before Smith got Kipnis to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Chisenhall had an RBI double in the third and Choo doubled in a run in the fourth, later scoring on a groundout by Kipnis.
Cleveland loaded the bases on three straight singles in the fifth, the final one coming when reliever Everett Teaford fell down after fielding a bunt by Carrera. Kipnis' two-out single scored two runs for an 8-1 lead.
Huff didn't issue a walk and struck out five in his strongest outing since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Sept. 4.
NOTES: Butler played his 15th game of the season at first base in place of Hosmer. ... Kansas City leads the season series 9-7. ... The Royals had won nine of the previous 11 after going 0-4 in April during a 12-game losing streak overall. ... RHP Jake Odorizzi (0-1) makes his second major league start on Saturday. He allowed three runs in 5 1-3 innings in his debut, also coming against the Indians. ... Alomar is the 41st manager in Cleveland history.