KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The dimensions of Kauffman Stadium can humble a power hitter, can reduce their ferocious drives into a harmless flyballs, can send batters grumbling back to their dugout cursing this park’s architects. Brandon Moss is not one of these men.
He launched a pair of home runs for Oakland in the American League wild-card game and nearly dashed the dreams of a generation of Kansas City fans. Here in 2015, with Moss now slugging for Cleveland, he continues to run roughshod over the Royals, their pitchers and their ballpark. He blasted his third homer in six games in Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the Indians in seven, rain-shortened innings.
Moss unleashed a two-run drive in the fifth inning off starter Chris Young. The offending pitch was an 86-mph fastball on the outer half of the plate but near Moss’ waist. He had fouled off the last four pitches. This one he powered out to right-center field.
The homer inflated Cleveland’s lead back to four. The Indians pounded Young for six runs in five innings. Young (4-2, 2.56 ERA) has now given up 10 runs in his last 11 innings. He had allowed only two in his first four starts.
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Kansas City (30-21) have now lost six of their last eight games. They lacked answers against Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who yielded four hits and four walks, but only two runs, in 6 2/3 innings. After a two-run homer by Lorenzo Cain in the third, the Royals did not place a runner at second base again until the seventh.
This weekend they host the Rangers, who have scrapped back into contention after an early-season swoon. The Royals hope to slow their skid before they erase all the ground they gained in April.
On Thursday, to finish off a series already featuring Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber, the Indians flaunted yet another hard-throwing, strikeout-collecting right-hander. This one was Bauer, the former No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft. Bauer mixes a diverse collection of changeups and curves, sliders and splitters. Before the game, first baseman Eric Hosmer did not exactly shower Bauer with praise.
“You’ve just got to stay patient and attack pitches in the zone,” Hosmer said. “He’s got a lot of different pitches he likes to throw. But if we stay aggressive in our zone, and don’t go outside the zone, we should be good.”
The Royals could not adhere to their own strategy early. And they soon found themselves in a four-run hole.
Cleveland capitalized on a fortuitous bounce in the third. Young flashed his glove to snag a comebacker off outfielder Michael Bourn’s bat. The baseball glanced off his glove and trickled into the outfield. Omar Infante looked positioned for a relatively painless groundout. Instead the Indians had a runner on base with none out.
Bourn swiped second base soon after. He scored when second baseman Jason Kipnis shot a single past Infante. Next, first baseman Carlos Santana bounced a double down the first-base line, which Hosmer had just vacated. A single by Michael Brantley doubled Cleveland’s lead.
Young recovered to strike out slugger Brandon Moss. With two outs, he flung a trio of sliders inside to outfielder David Murphy. Young attempted to elevate a fastball to finish the encounter. Murphy was not fooled. He mashed a drive over Cain’s head in center field. Two runs scored.
In the bottom of the frame, Cain reduced the four-run deficit to two with one swing. After Omar Infante led off with a single, Bauer fed Cain a belt-high fastball. Cain blasted it off the batter’s eye in center field, well past the 410-foot sign.
Soon after, Kansas City would bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Hosmer took a five-pitch walk, including a fastball that buzzed his tower. He glared at Bauer as he trotted to first base, then raced to third on a single by Kendrys Morales.
It was up to Alex Gordon. He passed on a fastball inside. Bauer followed up with a changeup, right down the middle. The pitch must have disrupted Gordon’s timing. He rolled into a harmless grounder. The Royals did not threaten again.