CLEVELAND — The Indians’ 10-game homestand started on a sour note Friday night thanks to pitcher Josh Tomlin.
The right-hander allowed five runs in 5⅔ innings, including a three-run homer to Mike Moustakas, as the Kansas City Royals beat the Tribe 7-1 in front of a sellout crowd at Progressive Field.
Tomlin (5-6, 4.11 ERA) struck out six without issuing a walk, but was battered for 10 hits as Cleveland remained 5½ games behind Seattle in the race for the final American League wild-card spot.
“I went out there with a purpose tonight, but made a few mistakes,” said Tomlin, who is 1-4 with a 5.46 ERA in his last five starts. “I thought it was going OK until Moustakas hit that blow that took the wind out of us a little bit.
“When you make a mistake like that and it deflates your team, it’s the pitcher’s responsibility — and I’ve got to be better than that.”
Kansas City carried a 2-0 lead into the sixth when Tomlin became unglued. Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar singled, setting the table for Moustakas to blast a two-out homer into the right field stands.
Indians manager Terry Francona lifted his starter immediately after Moustakas — batting .192 on the year — went deep.
“I thought Josh pitched better than his line score, but the home run skews it a little bit,” Francona said. “He really did a good job of hanging in there, except for that one pitch that he left over the plate.”
It was Tomlin’s first appearance since throwing a one-hitter in a 5-0 win at Seattle on June 28.
Perez went 3-for-3 against him, while Lorenzo Cain had two hits and two RBI. Second baseman Christian Colon also made the Tribe pay, collecting his first three MLB hits in his initial start after Omar Infante was a late scratch.
Cleveland’s offense had an even worse evening than Tomlin, failing to score until Michael Brantley homered leading off the ninth. “Dr. Smooth” went 2-for-4 and is hitting .314 with team-leading totals of 13 home runs and 55 RBIs.
Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura (6-7, 3.07 ERA) came within two outs of his first complete game, scattering six hits in 8⅓ dominant innings. In three career outings against the Indians, the rookie from the Dominican Republic is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA.
“Ventura was real good and they beat us, hands down,” Tribe center fielder Michael Bourn said. “He throws 100 MPH, first of all, so you have to try and get him early. We hit the ball hard at times, but he was really on.”
Vinnie Pestano and Carlos Carrasco followed Tomlin, combining for 2⅓ scoreless frames, while John Axford allowed two runs in the ninth to extend Kansas City’s advantage to 7-0. One of those runs was unearned because of a throwing error by third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall.
Chisenhall was hitless in four at-bats, dropping his average to .338. He is four plate appearances shy of qualifying for the AL batting leaders, where he would place second behind Houston’s Jose Altuve (.347).
“You process what happened, move on, and try to win tomorrow,” Francona said.
The attendance of 39,020 was Cleveland’s third largest of the season, trailing opening day April 4 against Minnesota (41,274) and June 21 against Detroit (40,712). Officially, it was a sellout, but a block of seats in upper right field were never put on sale.
The Indians are eight games behind the first-place Tigers in the AL Central Division, while the Royals moved within four games of the lead with their victory.
“We know where we stand, we’re three games under .500 now (at 41-44),” Bourn said. “We’re trying to get on a roll during this homestand, and take it into the All-Star break.
“Tonight was only one game. We’ll get back at it tomorrow.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.