CLEVELAND — An eight-game stint at home seemed like an ideal time for the Indians to put some distance between themselves and the Tigers in the race for the Central Division title.
Instead, it did the opposite.
Visits from the White Sox, Angels and Royals wound up costing Cleveland in the division standings, as the Indians dropped six of the eight games, culminating in a 5-3 loss to Kansas City on Sunday at Progressive Field.
Cleveland entered the stand in a first-place tie with Detroit, but now trails the Tigers by 2 1/2 games, and leads the third-place White Sox by just 1 1/2 games.
“It was a disappointing homestand,” said manager Manny Acta, whose club has lost eight of its last 10 games and 10 of its last 14. “After playing well on the road (4-4 against Baltimore and Minnesota), we came over here in front of our fans and lost all three series. We just couldn’t wake up those bats.”
Offense has been a sore spot for the Indians for much of the season, especially as of late, and it was in the series finale as well.
Despite outhitting KC 10-9, Cleveland struggled to come up with a key hit — something that has plagued the Indians throughout their recent cold streak. They scored just two runs on eight hits off fill-in starter Danny Duffy, who got his third win of the season after entering the day 2-4 with a 5.17 ERA.
The Indians, who were unable to land the big bat they were searching for at the trading deadline, had hits in eight of the nine innings but scored in just two of them.
“We were able to get some hits, but we didn’t execute when we had to,” Acta said. “I guess getting the hits is a step in the right direction. Now, we need to get them with guys on base.”
The Indians went scoreless over the first four innings, with Jason Kipnis’ first career home run and an RBI double from Carlos Santana bringing them to within a run in the fifth.
They scored their last run in the eighth inning to pull within a run again, but the Royals added some insurance in the ninth, scoring once off reliever Tony Sipp.
There was no-late game magic at home for the Indians, who are nearing the .500 level (29-24) at Progressive Field, after dominating teams at home over the first two months of the season.
It wasn’t all bad news for Cleveland, which got a positive, if not dominant outing for one-time ace Fausto Carmona.
The right-hander, who has struggled for much of the season allowed four runs on six hits over 7 1/3 innings. He allowed solo homers to Jeff Francouer and Alex Gordon, with one of his runs scoring in the fourth on a throwing error from right fielder Kosuke Fukudome.
“I think it was good,” Carmona said of his outing. “I had quick innings and was making good pitches to get ground balls.”
Though Carmona still doesn’t resemble the ace he was supposed to be at the start of the season, he has been effective over a three-start span — 1-1, 2.79 ERA — since leaving the disabled list.
“He’s throwing the ball well,” Acta said. “He worked very hard after those struggles. Hopefully he continues to go out there and give us a chance to win.”
Carmona (5-11, 5.31 ERA) said slowing down his delivery has helped him as of late.
“I think for me the difference is throwing strikes,” Carmona said. “I just need to take my time every pitch and throw a strike. I feel more confident now.”
Indians hitters could use some of that confidence as the team travels to Boston for a four-game series that begins tonight, and then to Texas for three games. The Red Sox and Rangers both lead their respective divisions, Boston owning the best record in the American League.
“We just have to go on the road and battle,” Acta said.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.