Tonight, the Cleveland Indians lackadaisically defeated the Kansas City Royals 4-0. It was the second straight loss agains the Indians in this series, but more ignominiously, tonight’s goose egg by the Royals represented 25 consecutive innings since their last run. It certainly feels longer.
The game started pretty well, as Kansas City starter Jason Hammel tossed 5.1 perfect innings before allowing the first runner, a Bradley Zimmer single. Unfortunately, the next hit was immediately after, a two-run home run by Roberto Perez. Though Hammel cleaned up the inning without further damage, the 2-0 deficit seemed insurmountable for the offense-starved Royals.
Indeed, the two-run bomb would have been enough to defeat the Royals tonight. Though recently their problem hasn’t actually been an ‘on base’ problem but a ‘hitting with players on base’ problem, tonight was a bit of both. The Royals knocked four hits (all singles) and walked three times. With that few baserunners, you need some timely hitting and good baserunning to convert the legs into scores.
The Royals did not do so. They were hitless with runners in scoring position, going 0-3, and all-in-all left seven men on base. Salvador Perez was the biggest problem tonight. In front of him, Melky Cabrera and Eric Hosmer went 3-7 with a walk. Perez seemed like a double agent, as he followed that competence up with an 0-4 line and a trio of strikeouts. One of those strikeouts came in the fourth inning with both Cabrera and Hosmer on base and one out, the Royals’ best chance to score to that point (and, indeed, all night).
But Perez wasn’t the biggest problem. When you run out a bottom three of the likes of Alcides Escobar, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Alex Gordon, you shouldn’t expect much production. That was true. The three went a combined 0-10 with four strikeouts.
Some credit should go to Cleveland’s pitcher, Mike Clevinger, of course. Clevinger has started 17 games this year with a K/9 north of 10, sporting a nice ERA of under 4. Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero, and Cody Allen pitched the last three innings, and all three are competent relievers.
At some point, though, the Royals need to score some runs against good pitchers if they want to think of themselves as a possible playoff team. Guys like Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrew Miller lurk there.
The Royals are 64-64, back to .500 with 34 games to go, and stand 1.5 games back of Minnesota for the second Wild Card spot. They close out players’ weekend with a matinee against Cleveland, where they hope to avoid a sweep.