It was a perfect August evening in Kansas City on Friday night. Kauffman Stadium was electric; over 31,000 fans came through the turnstiles to watch their first-place Royals. Unfortunately, the Royals couldn’t reward their fans with a memorable performance, falling 6-1 to the hands of the Cleveland Indians.
For the second straight start, Jason Vargas (10-7) was shaky, and just like the Rangers did last Sunday, the Indians punished him early on. After surrendering a run on a second-inning double, Vargas was battered in the third. Jose Ramirez singled home the game’s second run, and Carlos Santana, who was a ridiculous 9-14 (with five walks) in the last Royals-Indians series, plated him with a bloop single to take a 3-0 lead. Cleveland would plate a fourth run on a Jason Kipnis RBI groundout.
Vargas’ final line: six innings, 10 hits, four runs, five strikeouts, and zero walks.
Danny Salazar (5-6), who has started both of the games Cleveland has won at Kauffman Stadium this season, blanked the Royals for five innings. He allowed four hits and struck out three. As miserable as it was to watch Salazar work with ease through Kansas City’s lineup, it could have been worse – a 44 minute rain delay in the middle of the sixth inning knocked him out of the game.
The offensive woes continued for Kansas City despite a strong effort from Alcides Escobar, who went 4-5 and drove in the team’s only run. In the bottom of the ninth, Escobar plated Christian Colon with a one-out single. The other eight Royals were just 5-31 against Salazar and six Cleveland relievers.
Santana put the game away in the top of the ninth with a two-run home run off of Francisley Bueno. Despite batting .229 on the season, Santana is 11-17 with six walks, six home runs and 10 RBI’s in his last five games at Kauffman Stadium.
Coupled with the Detroit Tigers winning in Chicago, the Royals saw their AL Central lead drop to a mere half-game. The Indians, meanwhile, are only a couple more wins away from making the AL Central a three-team race; the victory on Friday night brought them to 4.5 games back of Kansas City.
The series continues tomorrow when James Shields (12-7, 3.45 ERA) opposes Trevor Bauer (5-7, 4.18). Bauer’s only other start against Kansas City came back on June 11, when he allowed three runs in just 5.1 innings, receiving the loss.