The Royals offered their top pitching prospect, Jake Odorizzi, a glimpse of the big leagues on Sunday.
In return, he provided them a brief look into the Royals’ future on the mound before the wheels fell off a mostly promising major-league debut.
Odorizzi shut out the Indians for five innings Sunday afternoon before Cleveland pounced on the Royals’ right-hander for three runs in the sixth and used a two home-run day from Carlos Santana to pull away for a 15-4 victory at Kauffman Stadium. The loss concluded the Royals’ four-game winning streak, mathematically eliminated them from postseason contention and ensured their ninth consecutive losing season.
“I thought Jake threw the ball really well,” manager Ned Yost said. “I thought he located his pitches well, he had a good game plan (and) he competed extremely well. I’m very pleased.”
Enough to earn another look, said Yost, who added that Odorizzi will likely start the second game of a return trip to Cleveland on Saturday.
Odorizzi, 22, is widely regarded as the Royals’ top pitching prospect. He combined for a 15-5 record a 3.03 ERA in 26 games between Class AAA Omaha and Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
“(The nerves) weren’t that bad, to tell you the truth,” Odorizzi said. “I think it helped that I had five days (with the Royals) prior to this. When it was my turn today, it felt like a normal start.”
He cruised through five innings Sunday, and the Royals had a 1-0 lead on catcher Adam Moore’s solo home run in the third inning. Only Shin-Soo Choo reached base against Odorizzi in the first four frames.
Then it quickly fell apart.
After retiring Choo on a flyout to open the sixth, the next four Indians hitters touched Odorizzi for hits. Jason Kipnis grounded a triple into the right field corner past diving first baseman Eric Hosmer, and Asdrubal Cabrera returned him home with a single to center to tie the game at 1.
Carlos Santana deposited the next pitch into the right field bullpen — and in the matter of two pitches, Odorizzi had lost the shutout, relinquished the lead, and stood in line for the loss. Michael Brantley singled the next batter, ending Odorizzi’s day after 5 1-3 innings.
“I left some pitches up in the zone, and those were the pitches that got hit,” Odorizzi said. “But for the majority of the game, I was hitting my spots and throwing the ball where I wanted to.
“I’d like to have that sixth inning back.”
Odorizzi left to a standing ovation from the 22,960 in attendance at Kauffman Stadium. He threw 87 pitches, 55 for strikes.
“That was pretty moving,” Odorizzi said. “I was just taking it in. It was great to get that on the way out. ... It made it all the more special.”
Things progressively worsened after Odorizzi’s departure. In a messy seventh inning, the Indians brought 11 hitters to the plate and scored five of them against three Royals relievers.
The Royals made two errors in the inning, and center fielder Jason Bourgeois lost a fly ball in the sun. All three miscues allowed runs to score.
The Indians added seven more in the ninth, capped by Santana’s second blast of the day — a three-run homer that snuck inside the right field foul pole.
“Not much really to talk about, outside of Jake Odorizzi, on the pitching side,” Yost said.
The Royals’ offense struck first Sunday. In his first career at-bat with the Royals, Moore blasted a 410-foot home run over the seats in left field, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Moore, promoted from Class AAA Omaha on Sept. 16, slid into the lineup primarily to aid the comfort level of Odorizzi.
It worked for the first five innings. Choo welcomed Odorizzi to the big leagues with a line-drive single to left field to leadoff the game, but Odorizzi bounced back to record his first career strikeout against Kipnis, the following hitter, who chased a curveball in the dirt for strike three. That set off a string of eight straight shut down for Odorizzi, who consistently worked his fastball in the 90-92 miles per hour range.
The Indians countered with left-hander David Huff, who allowed one run in 5 2-3 innings to pick up his second win of the season.
Jeff Francoeur was 3-for-4 with an RBI single, part of a two-run eighth. Billy Butler picked up RBI No. 101 earlier in the inning with a double to left that scored Irving Falu.
Cleveland, which won for just the 13th time in its past 53 games, will play host to the Royals next weekend. Odorizzi will try again for his first career victory.
“It’s something to build on,” Odorizzi said. “Now I know what it’s like the first time out there. I’ll get to face these guys in Cleveland hopefully, and I’ll have a better feel for what’s going on. Hopefully we can get the win that day.”