CLEVELAND — Late September suddenly looks like late April for the Royals with nightly trips into Fiascoville — and Friday night offered up a typical tour in an 8-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
“We’ve got to get out of this little funk,” said left fielder Alex Gordon, who had three of the Royals’ 11 hits. “We’re not playing badly, but we’re not catching breaks. We’re not putting it together.
“We’re playing hard, but we need to find a way to finish this road trip strong and then have a good (final home) series against Detroit.”
This makes six straight losses for the Royals, which is their longest skid since that season-killing 12 in a row in April. If there is a silver lining, the season has only five games remaining.
So, yes, they can only get to 11 before the season ends. The Royals’ current slide also means, at 70-87, they must win two of their last five to finish with a better record than last year. That once seemed a certainty. No more.
This one wasn’t as close as the final score suggests. The Indians whooped out to an 8-1 lead through five innings before the Royals clawed their way back.
“We scored five, but it was after we were down by so much,” first baseman Billy Butler said. “All we did was make it respectable.”
Butler hit a two-run shot in the sixth inning that leaves him just one homer shy of being the first Royal in 12 years to reach 30. His two RBIs pushed his career-best total to 106.
That homer came against Indians starter David Huff, whose victory last Sunday at Kauffman Stadium started the Royals on their current tailspin.
“He’s a little sneaky,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “He kind of hides it well, but we should have done better.”
Salvy Perez delivered a two-run single in the eighth inning against reliever Scott Maine that had the Indians squirming before securing a victory for Sandy Alomar Jr. in his first game as manager. Cleveland fired Manny Acta on Thursday.
So credit the Royals with resiliency. Too bad they needed so much of it.
“We just didn’t play very well today,” Butler said. “We played well in (four losses in) Detroit. We ran into some good arms. We kicked the ball around a little bit (Thursday), but the other three games, we played well enough to win. Today was just a bad game.”
Left-hander Will Smith, 6-9, had won two previous starts against Cleveland but served up a stinker is what figures to be the final outing of his rookie season: six runs and nine hits in three-plus innings. That pushed his ERA to 5.32.
“The first two times I was able to command the balls to both sides of the plate and mix in my off-speed pitches,” Smith said. “Tonight, nothing was there.”
The Indians finished with 16 hits, including three apiece by Cord Phelps, Lonnie Chisenhall and Ezequiel Carrera. The Royals, for their part, missed some chances against Huff, who improved to 3-0 after yielding three runs and eight hits in six innings.
“We left a couple of opportunities out there where we could have picked up runs early,” manager Ned Yost said. “It would have made it easier on the back end. It was just too big of a hole.”
Cody Allen worked a scoreless seventh before Maine yielded hits to three straight hitters to start the eighth. That brought a change to Joe Smith, who closed out the inning without further damage. Chris Perez pitched a scoreless ninth for his 39th save.
The umpires also appeared to have a rough night; not enough to affect the game in any meaningful way — but both calls went against the Royals, which often seems to happen to teams in a slump. It happened last weekend to the Indians at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals opened the scoring after Perez started the second inning with a single to left. He went to second on a Mike Moustakas single to right before Adam Moore pulled an RBI double off the left-field wall.
So Smith carried only a 1-0 lead into the Cleveland second — and couldn’t get a shutdown inning. Didn’t come close.
Chisenhall blooped a one-out single to left and went to third on Brent Lillibridge’s single past Butler at first. Carrera tied the game with a soft-serve single into right.
Shin-Soo Choo followed with an RBI double off the left-field wall for a 2-1 lead. Phelps’ grounder through the left side made it five straight hits and extended the lead to 3-1 before Jason Kipnis grounded into a double play.
Cleveland added another run in the third on Chisenhall’s two-out RBI double past right fielder Jeff Francoeur. Russ Canzler broke from first on the full-count pitch and scored easily.
Smith’s miseries continued (and ended) in the fourth when Carrera led off with a single before Choo boomed an RBI double off the center-field wall. That made it 5-1 and finished Smith.
“I just wasn’t controlling the ball very well,” Smith said. “That’s what is going to happen against a major-league team. They’re going to hit you around and score a bunch of runs.”
Teaford gave up a single and an RBI grounder before ending the inning, but he had his own problems in a two-run fifth.
Chisenhall led off with a single before Teaford hit Lillibridge with a 1-2 pitch. Teaford then wound up on his backside when he slipped while fielding Carrera’s bunt.
Bases loaded with no outs.
Teaford nearly got out of it but for a suspect call at second. Johnny Giavotella made a leaping catch on Phelps’ one-out liner and appeared to beat Carrera to the base for a double play.
Umpire John Tumpane didn’t think so. The inning continued, and Kipnis blooped a two-run single to left for an 8-1 lead. That’s how it’s going right now.
Replay also suggested first-base umpire Toby Basner missed a play to start the Royals’ seventh. Lillibridge threw high on Moore’s grounder to short, but Basner said Casey Kotchman executed a tag before Moore got to the base.
Probably not; not that it mattered.