September 18, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
47°F

Tribe: Cleveland two games back in wild-card chase

CLEVELAND — The Indians’ pitching was poor and their hitting was terrible. Somehow, though, their defense managed to be even worse Wednesday afternoon.

Kansas City scored two runs off throwing errors and two more off fielding miscues, allowing the Royals to beat the Tribe 6-2 in the finale of their three-game series.

Cleveland’s Lonnie Chisenhall can’t throw out the Royals’ Alcides Escobar at first base. (AP PHOTO)

The loss dropped Cleveland two full games behind Tampa Bay, which currently holds the second American League wild-card spot, while allowing Kansas City to move within 2½ games of the Rays.

“Overall, it was a very frustrating day,” said Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir, who surrendered three runs in the top of the first inning. “I got us in a hole early, and after that, I just tried to battle and get as deep into the game as I could.”

Kazmir (8-8, 4.24 ERA) lasted four-plus innings, allowing nine hits and four runs while striking out four. He also committed a throwing error in the fifth while attempting to pick off Emilio Bonifacio, which turned into an unearned run.

Bonifacio also benefitted from a mistake in the first, when Tribe right fielder Drew Stubbs misjudged his line drive, turning a potential out into a triple. That inning started on a sour note when leadoff hitter Alex Gordon smashed Kazmir’s first pitch over the wall in right-center field.

“You can’t give teams extra opportunities, especially good teams, in games,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona, whose squad had four hits. “We did that too much today. It was very costly.”

Indians reliever Rich Hill got into the act in the seventh, also flinging the ball past first baseman Carlos Santana while he attempted to hold Bonifacio on the bag. Bonifacio came home two batters later to extend the Royals’ lead to 5-2.

Not to be outdone, Stubbs lost what should have been the third out of the eighth inning in the sun, mere feet into foul territory. Mike Moustakas remained at the plate, then smacked a single up the middle to score Lorenzo Cain.

Officially, neither of Stubbs’ bloopers were called errors by scorer Adam Liberman, but that could change once the plays are submitted to the MLB office.

“On the first one, Drew didn’t get to it. You’ve got to go get it,” Francona said sternly. “The second one was the sun. All the issues that we had today directly led to runs.”

Kansas City right-hander James Shields (11-9, 3.38 ERA), meanwhile, was unhittable between the second and eighth innings. He pitched into the ninth, allowing four hits while striking out seven.

After Tribe left fielder Michael Brantley singled home Michael Bourn and Mike Aviles with two out in the first, Cleveland’s next 24 batters went 0-for-23 against Shields with one walk.

Carlos Santana drew the base on balls in the sixth, which was the lone walk recorded by the Indians in the final two games of the series, both of which were losses.

Shields gave up back-to-back singles to Jason Kipnis and Santana to start the ninth, but Royals closer Greg Holland entered and struck out the next three batters to earn his 42nd save of the season.

“Shields pitched a real good game, but we’ll have a chance to go at him again in four or five days in Kansas City,” Kipnis said. “We’re looking forward to it already.”

Bryan Shaw tossed 2⅓ innings of scoreless relief for the Tribe, while Clay Rapada worked a perfect ninth. Matt Albers and Hill each gave up one run out of the bullpen.

Bonifacio collected three hits and two runs for Kansas City, which also received two hits apiece from Cain and Eric Hosmer. Cain also stole a pair of bases as the Royals went 3-for-3 running on Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes.

“You tip your cap to them,” said Bourn, who went 1-for-4. “They won. They were the better team today.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.