CLEVELAND — The Indians finally got a quality outing from Carlos Carrasco and did nothing to reward the right-hander.
With Carrasco pitching better than he has in more than two seasons on the big league level, Cleveland couldn’t support its pitcher, falling 2-1 Monday night in the series opener with Central Division rival Kansas City.
Carrasco allowed just a run on four hits over 7⅓ innings, but a lack of offense allowed the Royals to stay hot, with Kansas City scoring twice over the final two innings to win for the 11th time in 13 games.
Kansas City took over second place from the Indians, who lost for just the second time in six games to fall 5½ games off Detroit’s pace in the division standings. Cleveland is back below .500 at 34-35, while the Royals are an even 34-34.
Carrasco deserved a much better fate, retiring the first 13 batters he faced and offering up a dominant performance that hasn’t been seen from him since 2011.
“He was so good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He used his fastball on both sides of the plate. That’s probably a little unfair to expect that every time out, but that’s kind of what we’ve been hoping for.”
The Royals scored the tying run on a bloop double from Eric Hosmer off reliever Bryan Shaw in the eighth inning and plated the game-winning in the ninth on a wild pitch from Matt Albers.
With the bases full and no outs, Albers went 0-2 on pinch-hitter Miguel Tejada before throwing a breaking ball in the dirt that catcher Carlos Santana blocked.
Albers went to the same pitch on 1-2 and got the same result, but Santana let the ball get under him and through his legs, and pinch runner Elliot Johnson slid in just ahead of Albers’ tag at the plate.
“It was a breaking ball that stayed down and didn’t skip,” Francona said of the 1-2 pitch.
Both Santana and Albers took the blame for the miscue.
“I tried to block it,” Santana said. “I think I was a little late putting the glove down. Tomorrow is a new day.”
“I threw it a little bit too far in the dirt,” Albers said. “It didn’t really miss by too much, but it was definitely shorter than I would’ve liked.”
Had the Indians cashed in against Royals starter James Shields, things would have been different.
Shields, who entered the night having allowed more than three runs in just two of his 15 starts, worked in and out of jams for the majority of his six-inning effort — one run on four hits and four walks.
Cleveland loaded the bases in the third inning with one out, but Mike Aviles popped foul to the catcher and Jason Kipnis stuck out. The Indians had the bases full in the fifth with two outs and Kipnis struck out again.
Cleveland’s second baseman, who was named American League co-Player of the Week along with pitcher Corey Kluber on Monday, stranded seven baserunners and ground out with a runner on third to end the game.
“We had a couple chances and we couldn’t cash in,” Francona said. “Shields never gives in and throws every pitch in any count.”
The Indians had runners on third in each of the last two innings, but squandered those opportunities as well. Needing just a fly ball to score Michael Bourn from third with one out in the ninth, Aviles struck out and Kipnis followed with a grounder to second.
It appears the Indians are on the verge of making a move. Reliever Matt Langwell looked as though he was being sent down after the game, with third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall possibly on the way back to the majors. Chisenhall was not in the lineup for Triple-A Columbus on Monday.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.