KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Cleveland Indians had a great opportunity to give Justin Masterson an early lead on Friday night. That chance quickly evaporated, just like it usually does when Masterson is on the mound.
Luis Mendoza pitched into the seventh inning in his first start since a bout with strep throat, leading the Kansas City Royals to a 6-3 victory over the struggling Indians.
Cleveland is averaging 3.37 runs in Masterson’s starts, the worst run support among American League starters. But Masterson (11-15) refuses to use that as an excuse for his poor record.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re scoring runs or not scoring runs, I haven’t pitched that well this year,” he said. “That’s more the disappointing part, at least consistently in the overall sense. We’ve had some games here and there, but until you’re able to do your job consistently, you’re not talking about what other people are doing.”
Masterson allowed four runs and seven hits over six innings in his third consecutive loss. The right-hander is 1-4 with a 7.24 ERA in his last five starts.
The Indians have lost 40 of 52 games since July 26 when they were 50-49 and trailed AL Central-leading White Sox by 3 games. They have lost six straight against Kansas City and eight of nine overall in the season series.
“He (Masterson) was able to throw ground balls,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He had a good sinker, and that’s how he got out of it — the double play with (Jeff) Francoeur and some of the other situations he got in. They were hitting the ball on the ground; some of them got through and hurt him. We just couldn’t score enough runs for him.”
Mike Moustakas and Brayan Pena each drove in two runs for the Royals, who have won three straight and four of six. Mendoza (8-9) allowed two runs and eight hits in six-plus innings.
Mendoza, who was scratched from a Wednesday start with the illness, had a shaky first inning. Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Kipnis singled with no outs and Asdrubal Cabrera moved the runners over with a sacrifice, but it wasn’t on a signal from Acta.
“He just dragged on his own,” the manager said. “He’s a got a good feel for the game, and he thought he might have had a base hit and putting guys in scoring position. He understands the game and we give the freedom to that stuff. He knows deep inside he’s not a prototype third hitter anyways.”
Mendoza then struck out Carlos Santana and issued an intentional walk to Michael Brantley before Travis Hafner grounded out to end the inning.
“He did a great job of getting out of it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Striking out Santana was a huge out and he ended up getting out of it.”
Kansas City pushed across two runs in the second on RBI singles by Pena and Irving Falu. Moustakas tacked on a sacrifice fly in the third and a run-scoring groundout in the fifth.
Mendoza departed after Ezequiel Carrera led off the seventh with a bunt single. Tim Collins hit Choo with a pitch and yielded a two-out, two-run single to Santana.
Kansas City responded with two runs in the eighth to make it 6-3. Eric Hosmer, who had the winning RBI single in Thursday’s victory over Chicago, hit a sacrifice fly and Pena doubled in Jeff Francoeur.
Greg Holland worked the ninth for his 15th save in 18 opportunities.
“The eighth inning was big after it got back to a one-run lead, to get two more runs and get Holland some breathing room,” Yost said. “He came in for the third night in a row and was fantastic.”
Mendoza earned his first victory since Aug. 11. He was 0-1 with four no-decisions since his previous win.
“Offensively, we continue to struggle, especially with situational hitting,” Acta said. “The first inning we had a situation where we could just take the lead, and who knows what would happen after that. But, we failed to drive in a run with a runner on third and the infield back.”
Brantley singled home Cabrera in the third inning for Cleveland’s first run.
NOTES: Royals C Salvador Perez and LF Alex Gordon were held out of the lineup with bruised hands. Manager Ned Yost said Perez has been battling sore hands for a week and likely would not play in the weekend series against the Indians. Gordon bruised his hand while sliding into home in the sixth inning Thursday. Gordon did come in as a defensive replacement in the eighth. Yost said Gordon probably would start Saturday. .. Indians RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, who has lost five straight decisions, will start Saturday. The Royals will counter with rookie LHP Will Smith. … George Toma, who was the Royals’ groundskeeper from their inaugural season until 1995, was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame before the game. Toma becomes the 25th member of the Royals’ hall.