Just when it looked as if the Indians might go quietly into the Missouri night, the Tribe mounted a rally in the seventh inning against Bruce Chen and the Royals.
With one out in the seventh, Orlando Cabrera and Austin Kearns singled, and Lou Marson drove both runners home with a double to right-center, cutting the Cleveland deficit to three, at 5-2.
Chen retired Adam Everett for out number two, but Michael Brantley singled, sending Marson to third, and suddenly you’re thinking “hey, Asdrubal Cabrera is going to represent the tying run”.
Um…not so fast.
Marson was cut down at the plate trying to score on Brantley’s hit, and thus the half-inning ended with the Indians still down by three, but at least having shown some signs of life.
Meanwhile Chad Durbin was doing precisely what a long-reliever has to do, and when he retired the Royals in order in the home half of the seventh, his line for the night showed 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief with two strikeouts.
Not too shabby for someone who was being thrown to the wolves six days ago on various websites.
Blake Wood came on in the eighth to replace Chen, who was brilliant before tiring in the seventh. Chen ended up surrendering two earned runs on six hits, walking three and fanning five in 102 pitches.
Wood retired Asdrubal Cabrera, but Shin-Soo Choo singled to center. Choo then put himself in scoring position with a steal of second. Carlos Santana came through with a run-scoring base-hit and suddenly the Tribe was down by only two, with Travis Hafner coming on to pinch-hit for Shelley Duncan.
Alas, Hafner struck out for the second out, bringing Orlando Cabrera to the plate. Cabrera fouled out to short right and Wood had minimized the damage, and the Tribe still found themselves down 5-3 going to the bottom of the eighth.
Justin Germano relieved Durbin and gave up a lead-off walk to Wilson Betemit, who was sacrificed to second by Kila Ka’aihue. Germano got Brayan Pena for the second out, and got out of the inning by inducing a ground out from Alcides Escobar.
So on to the ninth we went.
Royals’ closer Joakim Soria came on for the second straight night against the Tribe — having worked an inning on Monday with the game tied — and Austin Kearns reached on a throwing error by Kansas City third-baseman Betemit.
Lou Marson struck out for the first out of the inning, and Grady Sizemore came on to pinch-hit for Adam Everett. Sizemore made solid contact but lined out to left. where Alex Gordon made a diving catch, leaving Michael Brantley as the last Indians’ hope against Soria.
Brantley singled, and suddenly Asdrubal Cabrera came to bat with a chance to give the Tribe the lead with one big swing.
Cabrera, 0-for-4 on the night and down to his last strike, was hit by the pitch, loading the bases for Shin-Soo Choo and putting the tying runs in scoring position.
With Choo down to his final strike, and with Soria ahead in the count 1-2, Choo came all the way back to draw a base on balls, scoring Kearns and drawing the Tribe within one, and bringing Carlos Santana to the plate.
So agonizingly close. So close. But no cigar, as Santana fanned looking at three straight called strikes, giving the Indians exactly that agonizing loss that it looked like they might avoid tonight.
When all was said and done, Bruce Chen got the win, moving to 3-0 on the season, while Soria picked up a very shaky fifth save, although the run he surrendered in the ninth was unearned.
The losing pitcher was Jeanmar Gomez (0-1, 10.38 ERA).
In closing, it bears mentioning what a terrific job the Tribe's Chad Durbin and Justin Germano did out of the pen, in giving the Indians a chance to come back, a chance to make a game of it. In 3 2/3 innings, Durbin and Germano combined to allow just one walk while striking out two.
Something to hold onto until tomorrow night, when Justin Masterson will get the start for Cleveland, having to win to keep the Indians alone in first place.
Tonight's loss drops the Tribe to 12-5, while Kansas City moves to 11-6, and pulls within a game.