For much of this early season, and especially in their victories, the Indians have followed a pretty basic and successful formula: score early and sometimes often, rely on quality pitching to hold a lead, get the game to the late innings with the advantage, and let the bullpen put the game to bed.
Last night that formula was not in evidence, and this time the Tribe had to play catch-up almost from the beginning, before coming up short.
Tonight resembles last night. Not good news for the Indians if they hope to hold onto first place by themselves in the AL Central.
While the first nine Indians have gone quietly against Luke Hochevar, who has breezed through three innings with two strikeouts and on only 33 pitches, Justin Masterson labored through the first inning, throwing 32 pitches in that frame alone, and the Indians find themselves on the short end of a 2-0 deficit as we head to the fourth.
As the only salient inning was the Kansas City second, here is the story of how that pitch-marathon unfolded:
It began innocently enough, with a Chris Getz ground out, but Melky Cabrera walked and then Alex Gordon — who may have saved last night’s game with his glove — gave the Royals a quick lead with a triple. Billy Butler struck out for the second out of the inning, and if Masterson had retired the side then, it would have been a decent job of escaping.
Unfortunately, Jeff Francoeur drove Gordon in from third with a base hit, and although no more runs scored, Masterson was forced to make a lot more pitches, as another single and a walk loaded the bases before Matt Treanor popped out.
So we head to the fourth with the Indians needing to do something soon, as we cannot count on a comeback in the late innings two nights in a row — especially when last night’s comeback fell just short.