July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Royals 8, Indians 2: Tribe listless in loss

CLEVELAND — The Indians want fans to start showing up to the ballpark. More performances such as the one they produced Tuesday night at Progressive Field aren’t going to help their cause.

Down big early, Cleveland, which has shown a tendency to stick with it until the final out, displayed little fight throughout an 8-2 loss to the Royals that knocked the Indians out of first place in the Central Division.

With Chicago’s win over Tampa Bay, Cleveland trails the first-place White Sox by a half game.

“I must confess that it had nothing to do with us losing that that had to be the most boring game I’ve ever been part of,” said manager Manny Acta, whose club played in front of a sparse crowd of 14,253 fans. “Everything happened in the first two innings and then after that the only relevant thing that happened in the game was that (Royals reliever) Kelvin Herrera threw a pitch at 100 miles per hour. Other than that, it was just pathetic.

“That second inning pretty much sucked the energy out of everybody. It was just a deep hole that we couldn’t get out of.”

A five-run second inning from the Royals put the game away against Cleveland starter Justin Masterson, who matched a season-high by allowing eight runs on nine hits over six innings. The right-hander allowed seven of his eight runs over the first two innings, including a two-run home run to the fourth batter he faced, Mike Moustakas.

“Justin just didn’t have any command of his fastball the first couple innings,” Acta said. “After that, he got in a very good groove. But the damage was already done.”

Cleveland was able to respond to Kansas City’s opening inning with two runs off unheralded starter Will Smith to tie it, but another big inning bit Masterson once again.

“It’s always one inning,” Masterson said. “When I do struggle, it typically is one inning. It really was that second inning that was bigger than anything. The good thing was that we got better as the game went on and got through six innings.”

The loss dropped Masterson’s record to 2-4 with a very un-ace like 5.14 ERA over 11 starts.

“Decent, that’s how I’d evaluate it,” said Masterson of how he has pitched this year, “a couple bad ones and quite a few good ones.”

It was a good one for Smith, who looked shaky early but was able to limit the Indians to two runs on four hits over six innings of his first big league victory. The left-hander, who was making just his second career start, shut out Cleveland on two hits after the opening inning.

The Royals had pitchers warming up in the bullpen during the Indians’ two-run first, but didn’t need them until the seventh.

“We let the kid Smith off the hook,” Acta said of the 22-year-old rookie. “After that, he was pretty good. He throws from the left, which helps against us.

“I just felt that all our energy got sucked out of us in the second inning, which is not very good. You’ve got a lot of games to play still.”

The Indians lost control of at least a share of first place in the division for the first time since April 22.

Backup catcher Luke Carlin didn’t get a hit but he reached base three times via error, becoming the first Cleveland player since Walt Williams (1973) to accomplish the feat.

It appeared after the game that infielder Juan Diaz had been notified that he had been sent down. With Asdrubal Cabrera expected to return to shortstop today and the bullpen down to six pitchers, the Indians will likely promote a reliever.


Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.