CLEVELAND — Let’s get the blown call out of the way first. Yes, umpire Dan Bellino clearly botched a call Monday afternoon that aided Cleveland’s five-run third inning in an 8-5 victory over the Royals.
The replays left no doubt that Bellino missed the call, and it cost the Royals a run. And who knows what might have happened if he gets the call right? Agreed, but…
That Cleveland third was already a four-run disaster by Royals starter Nate Adcock before Bellino failed to see what everyone else seemed to see – that third baseman Mike Moustakas tagged Jason Kipnis in a rundown.
The Royals committed their first three-error game of the year, including two in the seventh inning that gift-wrapped two Indians runs. That turned a one-run game into a three-run hole.
Isn’t that enough? Maybe not.
“We can’t have that,” Moustakas argued. “Something like that happens, and it could change everything. You don’t really know until after the game. We could have lost by one, and then it really would have meant something.”
The Royals kept the game close by maximizing their seven hits – they stranded just four runners and had a mere two at-bats with runners in scoring position.
There were homers by Eric Hosmer (his first in more than a month) and Brayan Peña (his first of the year) and a speed-do triple by Jarrod Dyson (that bruised hamstring seems fine). All nice.
“We didn’t have a lot of opportunities,” manager Ned Yost agreed. “We only got seven hits, but we scored some runs. I like the upward trend of our offense.”
The Royals battled back from 5-2 to 5-4 in the fifth and from 6-4 to 6-5 in the seventh. Even after falling into a three-run hole, they got the tying run to the plate with two outs in the eighth after Moustakas drew a walk, and Jeff Francoeur followed with a single.
But Vinnie Pestano retired Hosmer on a routine fly to left.
Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin, 2-2, worked just five innings after being activated earlier in the day from the disabled list – and he wasn’t particularly sharp after missing the last three weeks because of a sore wrist.
Tomlin gave up four runs, but the Royals managed just one run over the final four innings against a bullpen relay of Joe Smith, Nick Hagadone, Pestano and Chris Perez.
The Indians, 27-21, broke a three-game skid and maintained a one-half game lead in the American League Central Division over second-place Chicago. The Royals fell to 19-28 and 7 ½ games back.
Kipnis led a 14-hit Cleveland attack with three singles. In fact, all of the Indians’ hits were singles except Lonnie Chisenhall’s leadoff homer, which ignited the five-run third inning.
Back to the missed call.
Adcock, 0-3, had his sinker darting for the first two innings and had a 2-0 lead, courtesy of Hosmer’s homer, before collapsing in that five-run third.
“It got flat in the third, and you could tell,” said Adcock, who got just one out before departing. “I didn’t execute my sinker down and away. I didn’t pitch in for effect to lefties. They started diving on me. And I didn’t mix it up enough.”
Adcock’s problems started when Chisenhall, just recalled from Class AAA Columbus, led off with a rocket into the Royals’ bullpen beyond the right-field wall.
Luke Carlin followed with a single up the middle. Carlin went to second on Shin-Soo Choo’s one-out single to left before a walk to Michael Brantley loaded the bases. Kipnis battled Adcock for nine pitches before shooting two-run single up the middle.
That made it 3-2 with runners at first and third with one out – and that’s where Bellino got involved.
José Lopez’s high chop to third scored another run, but Moustakas faked a throw to first and trapped Kipnis, who charged around second.
Moustakas clearly tagged Kipnis – again, no doubt on the replay – but Bellino simply blew the call. Moustakas squawked, and Yost came out to argue. The umpires huddled in conference before refusing to overrule the call.
“He said he never saw him tag him,” Yost said. “Everybody else in the stadium saw it. I don’t know how he managed to miss it.”
That made a bad situation worse, and it got still worse when Casey Kotchman delivered a single that scored Kipnis for a 5-2 lead. That finished Adcock; Mendoza finished the inning with no further damage.
The Royals never fully recovered. So, again, how much did the missed call hurt?
“It cost us a run,” Yost said. “You lose by three…but there were points in the game when (one run would mean) it’s a tie game. But it is what it is, and you just deal with it.”
The knockout punch, though, came in the Tribe’s two-run seventh – and it was self-inflicted.
The Royals trailed just 6-5 when José Mijares replaced Mendoza with no outs and a runner on first. But Mijares clipped the runner, Juan Diaz, on a pickoff throw, and the result was a two-base error that moved Diaz to third.
Cleveland cashed the opportunity when Brantley served a one-out single into center. Kipnis followed with a single, but Mijares should have been out of the inning when Lopez hit a routine grounder to second baseman Irving Falu.
Instead of a double play, Falu booted the ball, retired nobody, and the Indians got another run. The final run.
“We were doing everything we could do,” Yost said, “not to allow them any tack-on runs because I felt our offense was battling back all day long. I thought our offense did a good job of staying in the game and staying after it. The tack-on runs hurt a lot.”
As much as the blown call. Maybe more.