The Cleveland Indians have been dominant on the road this season. Playing at home, however, has proven to be a major problem.
Kansas City added to the Indians’ home woes on Thursday, scoring three runs in the fifth inning en route to a 4-2 victory.
The loss was Cleveland’s sixth in eight games at Progressive Field in 2012, which has largely negated its 7-2 record on the road.
”It’s just a fluke. It has nothing to do with coming back home,” Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said. ”I think it’s just a fluke and we’ll play better here, for sure.”
Indians manager Manny Acta doesn’t think the early problems at home are the beginning of a trend.
”We love playing here,” said Acta, whose team was 44-37 at home in 2011. ”We scored a lot of runs here last year. It’s four bases and a mound everywhere you go. It’s just a coincidence the way we’re playing at home right now.”
Third baseman Jack Hannahan echoed his manager’s thoughts.
”Home is where you’ve got to take care of your business,” he said. ”It’s just baseball. It’s our second homestand. It’s just a coincidence. We’re going to start winning at home, no doubt about that.”
The numbers, however, tell a different story. The Indians have been outscored 46-28 at home while outscoring opponents 54-41 on the road.
Tomlin (1-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings. The right-hander gave up Jeff Francoeur’s go-ahead RBI single with two outs in the fifth, then was knocked out of the game when Mike Moustakas followed with a run-scoring hit.
Royals catcher Brayan Pena greeted Cleveland reliever Dan Wheeler with a third straight RBI single to make it 4-1, paving the way for Kansas City’s second straight victory.
The Royals, who snapped a 12-game losing streak one night earlier, are tied for the worst record in the American League at 5-14.
”We can’t lose now,” Kansas City left fielder Alex Gordon joked. ”It’s unbelievable.”
Earlier this month, the Indians outscored the Royals 32-19 in a three-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium. In their three-game rematch in Cleveland, Kansas City won two of three by a combined score of 15-8.
Cleveland only managed two runs off Royals starter Luis Mendoza (1-2), who scattered four hits over five-plus innings. On April 15, the right-hander allowed nine runs in four innings in a 13-7 loss to the Indians.
”Mendoza was throwing the same stuff, but I think he was sharper this time,” Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner said. ”We just had a hard time getting that one hit we needed today.”
After Kansas City took a 1-0 lead on Eric Hosmer’s double-play grounder in the first, Cleveland tied the score in the third. Aaron Cunningham singled off the glove of third baseman Moustakas, scoring Jose Lopez from third.
The Indians’ best chance at rallying from their 4-1 deficit came in the sixth, when they loaded the bases off Mendoza with no outs. Hafner sent a deep drive to the left field wall off reliever Tim Collins for a sacrifice fly, scoring Michael Brantley.
Collins quelled the threat by striking out Duncan and retiring Jack Hannahan on a groundout as part of his two-inning stint. Aaron Crow and Jonathan Broxton followed with one scoreless inning apiece, with Broxton earning his second save.
Broxton retired Jose Lopez to start the ninth, but Jason Kipnis singled. After Aaron Cunningham flied out, Michael Brantley walked on a 3-2 pitch and Asdrubal Cabrera flied out.
The game was delayed for several minutes in the fifth when Kipnis got something in his right eye while batting. Trainer Lonnie Soloff attended to him, but was unable to determine the cause of the discomfort. Kipnis drew a walk in that at-bat and singled in his final two plate appearances.
”I have no idea what happened,” Kipnis said. ”All of a sudden, it just felt like a ton of eyelashes got in there. Then I started scratching it, but I had pine tar on the glove, so that irritated it even more and it started getting swollen shut. I had to open my stance up, so my back eye could see because I couldn’t see much of anything out of my front one.”
Cleveland first baseman Casey Kotchman, who is in an 0-for-22 slump, did not play. He is batting .140 with two homers and four RBIs. Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo missed his second straight game with tightness in his left hamstring.
NOTES: OF Grady Sizemore, who had back surgery March 1, ran in the outfield and played catch Wednesday, and is scheduled to hit off a batting tee this weekend. … The Indians begin a three-game series against Los Angeles on Friday at Progressive Field. RHP Justin Masterson will face RHP Jered Weaver.