KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Anything Tuesday figured to be an improvement for the Royals over Monday's debacle. Held to any higher standard, this 7-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians was numbingly forgettable.
It lacked the humiliation that surfaced in Monday's 19-1 beatdown, but the positives pretty much stop there. The Indians scored three times in the first inning and, well, that was about it.
The Royals have now lost four in a row since those two rousing victories last week at Yankee Stadium. They also fell to 20-21 and now trail first-place Cleveland by seven games in the American League Central Division.
The Indians sure look like the real thing when playing the Royals. They are now 26-13, lead second-place Detroit by five games, and have seven victories in nine games against the Royals.
What the Royals needed, after Monday's system crash, was a strong start by Sean O'Sullivan. Instead, he struggled through his worst outing since entering the rotation in mid-April after some early bullpen duty.
O'Sullivan, 2-3, gave up those three runs in the first inning, when a hit batsman and a walk helped load the bases. Travis Hafner unloaded them with a double. The Indians scored again in the fourth and got two more in the fifth.
In all, O'Sullivan needed 97 pitches to make it through five innings before exiting after allowing six runs and eight hits.
Newcomer Everett Teaford replaced O'Sullivan to start the sixth and fashioned a six-pitch inning in his debut. Teaford's second inning wasn't as smooth, but Louis Coleman limited the damage to one run thanks to a slick double play.
OK, that was a highlight.
Second baseman Mike Aviles made a slick diving stop to his left on Orlando Cabrera's grounder with one out and runners at first and third.
Aviles gathered himself and threw to second for the force, and shortstop Alcides Escobar cranked his arm into another gear for the double play.
Very nice. Just not much else.
Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco, 2-2, wasn't particularly efficient — he threw 97 pitches in 5 1/3 innings — but he avoided major problems after getting the early lead. He allowed two runs and five hits before the bullpen took over.
Rafael Perez permitted an inherited runner to score in the sixth. Joe Smith started the seventh with successive walks but retired Mike Aviles on a pop before Tony Sipp closed out the inning with no damage — thanks in part to Treanor getting picked off second.
Chris Perez allowed one run in the ninth before closing out the victory in a non-save situation. Cleveland finished with 10 hits, including two doubles from Hafner and home runs by Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Eric Hosmer and Melky Cabrera each had two of the Royals' seven hits. The Royals have scored just five runs in their four-game skid.
The Indians' first inning looked a lot like Monday's annihilation.
Michael Brantley led off with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice. O'Sullivan then loaded the bases by hitting Shin-Soo Choo and walking Santana — and that lack of command proved costly when Hafner yanked his double into right.
The Royals got one run back in the second inning after Hosmer's one-out triple over Brantley's head in center. Hosmer had to hold on Wilson Betemit's hopper to the mound, but Matt Treanor grounded a two-out RBI single up the middle.
The Indians stirred again in the fourth by loading the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. Brantley made it 4-1 with a sacrifice fly to center.
O'Sullivan surrendered two more runs in the fifth. Santana hit a one-out homer, and Hafner followed with a double. Travis Buck's two-out single scored Hafner for a 6-1 lead.
The Royals chased Carrasco in sixth when Jeff Francoeur hustled his way to a double after Billy Butler's fly out to deep right. Hosmer's RBI single against Rafael Perez made it 6-2, but the inning fizzled after Hosmer was thrown out while trying to steal second.
Cleveland got that run back immediately when Asdrubal Cabrera led off the seventh with a 394-foot homer.