What projects as a season-defining stretch of 20 games opened Tuesday night for the Royals in a 6-5 giveaway loss to the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium.
Eight walks. Eight freebies. Eight.
In a one-run loss.
The Royals made it interesting in the ninth inning against Cleveland closer Chris Perez when Jarrod Dyson drew a one-out walk and went to second on Alex Gordon’s single to right.
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Perez survived by striking out Alcides Escobar on three pitches before Eric Hosmer grounded to short.
So, yes, the Royals failed to cash a late opportunity, but this game slipped away much earlier through a depressing inability to throw strikes.
Royals starter Luis Mendoza opened the game with a walk and later walked a batter and hit a batter, both with the bases loaded, in a two-run first inning.
Mendoza also moved two runners into scoring position with a walk in the fourth inning before yielding a ground ball through the left side by Asdrubal Cabrera that extended the Indians’ lead to 4-0.
Gordon erased those sins with a grand slam in the fifth against Cleveland starter Corey Kluber.
So Tim Collins inherited a 4-4 tie when he began the seventh inning by walking Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. That brought Aaron Crow into the game just as a light rain started to fall.
It was Collins’ second straight forgettable performance. He surrendered three runs in one-third of an inning Sunday in a 9-8 victory at Minnesota.
Crow immediately loaded the bases by walking Nick Swisher before Carlos Santana sent a sacrifice fly to deep center for a 5-4 lead. Kipnis moved to third on the play.
Mark Reynolds struck out, but Jason Giambi pulled an RBI double into the right-field corner that made it 6-4. In short, those two inning-opening walks by Collins (2-3) both scored.
The Royals struck back in the eighth inning after Eric Hosmer led off with a single against Vinnie Pestano. Billy Butler followed with an RBI double on a grounder past third.
Pinch runner Elliot Johnson took third on Salvy Perez’s grounder to first, which prompted the Indians to shorten their infield. Mike Moustakas drew a four-pitch walk.
Up stepped Sunday’s hero, David Lough, who had four extra-base hits in that victory over the Twins, including a homer after Collins and Crow squandered a three-run lead in the seventh.
Not this time.
Lough grounded into a second-short-first double play. It was a bang-bang play at first.
Perez then survive a shaky ninth inning for his eighth save. Cody Allen (3-0) got the victory for recording just one out — although it came with two runners on base in the sixth inning.
The loss dropped the Royals to 38-42 and pushed them 5 1/2 games behind first-place Cleveland. Tuesday’s series opener is the first of 20 straight games against opponents with winning records.
Mendoza started the game by walking Michael Brantley and worked himself into a bases-loaded jam when Kipnis and Swisher hit consecutive one-out singles.
Santana then fought back from an 0-2 hole to draw a run-scoring walk for a 1-0 lead. Mendoza hit Reynolds, which forced in another run, before Giambi grounded into a double play.
The Royals got a one-out double in the second from Perez, who limped several steps after he rounded first. He remained in the game after a quick examination by trainer Nick Swartz.
Perez didn’t get to test his leg any further that inning because Moustakas and Lough each grounded out.
Mendoza found two-out trouble in the third. Swisher sliced a two-out double to left, although he might have been out at second if Giavotella had held Gordon’s throw from left.
Santana drew another walk before Mendoza escaped when shortstop Alcides Escobar made a barehanded pickup and throw on Reynolds’ soft grounder for the third out.
The Indians opened the fourth with singles by Giambi and Lonnie Chisenhall. After Drew Stubbs flied out to center, Brantley drew a walk that loaded the bases.
Cabrera pulled a two-run single through the right side for a 4-0 lead before Mendoza avoided more damage by getting Kipnis to ground into a double play.
The Royals finally stirred against Kluber when Moustakas and Lough opened the fifth with singles. A walk to Giavotella loaded the bases with no outs.
All runners held on Dyson’s fly to short left before Gordon teed off on a 3-0 fastball and tied the game. Gordon sent a 392-foot drive to right for his second career grand slam.
Kluber exited after a one-out walk in the sixth to Perez. Reliever Nick Hagadone issued a four-pitch walk to Moustakas but struck out Lough.
Giavotella followed with a hopper back to the mound.