KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Remember the Indians of the first two months? The team that had the sputtering offense, inconsistent starting pitching and a defense that kept giving opponents extra outs?
That team reappeared on Tuesday night at Kaufman Stadium as the Royals defeated the Indians 9-5 and snapping the Tribe’s three-game winning streak.
As has been the case this season, when the Indians score nine or more runs, the next game doesn’t so well. They drop to 2-4 under that scenario. Add in facing a left-hander and you had the feeling coming into Tuesday that the road might be a little uphill.
After being dominating in his six May starts, Corey Kluber’s numbers have been average in June. He went just five innings, marking the first time since an April 29 start against the Angels that he hasn’t pitched into the seventh inning, and allowed six hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
"I don’t know if he had his best fastball command but he had good stuff. The line’s probably not indicative of the stuff that he had," Terry Francona said.
Of the six runs Kluber allowed only three were earned. During Kansas City’s four-run third, Asdrubal Cabrera dropped the ball on a fielder’s choice that could have started a double play while Carlos Santana also mishandled what would have been another chance to turn two.
The Royals took advantage as a bloop single to center by Omar Infante scored the first run. After another run scored when Santana bobbled the grounder with his only option being to go to first, Billy Butler’s single to center scored two more runs.
Francona said that he thought Cabrera was trying too quick to turn the double play and that the ball never really got into his glove. The Indians lead the Majors with 60 errors. After being clean most of last week, they have three errors in the past two games.
Kluber was 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA in May. In June, he is 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA.
"I wasn’t at my best. Unfortunately there were a couple of soft hits. Home run was still a pretty good pitch but he went out there and got it," Kluber said. "Errors are part of the game but part of our job as pitchers when they do happen is to try pick up the defense and get us out of the inning while limiting the damage."
Royals’ starter Jason Vargas held the Indians to four hits thru the first seven innings until the Tribe averted a shutout with a three-run eighth. Vargas went 7 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts. The Indians fell to 8-14 when facing left-handed starters.
"I thought he threw strike one away to lefties and got ahead of us all night. He pitched like he was supposed to with the lead," Francona said. "Every time we got stuff going we hit balls hard but couldn’t string anything together until later."
In the game after his five hit, three home run, nine RBI performance, Lonnie Chisenhall went 2 for 4 to raise his batting average to .388. Carlos Santana also had two hits and has raised his average to .176. It is the first time since April 13, when he was batting .186, in which his average has been above .175. Jason Kipnis drove in two runs with a double to right in the eighth.
The Tribe is 3-2 at the midway point of a 10-game road trip. If it is to continue being successful, they have to find the offense that they have had the past two weeks. Slumps have also been more of the norm after a prolific game. After scoring nine runs in Baltimore on May 24, they scored seven in the next four games and batted only .220 with one extra-base hit.