After retiring the first ten Royals of tonight’s game, Justin Masterson gave up his first base-runner — and first hit — with one out in the fourth inning on a Melky Cabrera single to center. Alex Gordon immediately followed with a double, and just like that, Kansas City had cut the Indians’ lead to 2-1. Then Billy Butler followed suit with a double of his own, and the game was tied at 2-2.
It was an odd and unsettling mirror image of what happened to Luke Hochevar in last Wednesday’s game in Kansas City, when Hochevar unraveled after finally allowing a hit.
Jeff Francoeur followed with a single — Kansas City’s fourth straight hit — to put runners on the corners, and still with only one out. But Masterson induced a double-play grounder from Kila Ka’aihue to keep it a tie game.
A big, big pitch with a runner at third and less than two outs.
Shin-Soo Choo tried to take advantage with a lead-off single in the bottom of the fourth. But Carlos Santana hit into his second double play of the night, and the bags were clear with two out.
The double play immediately became a crucial lapse when Travis Hafner doubled. Had there still been at least one man on, the double might well have put the Tribe back on top. But when Orlando Cabrera grounded out, the two-hit inning resulted in no runs, and the game moved to the fifth.
Masterson issued a two-out walk to Chris Getz in the top of the fifth, but fanned Mike Aviles to end the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Matt LaPorta hit the Tribe’s second homer of the night — on a blast to left field, LaPorta’s third of the season — and Cleveland was back on top 3-2. Then Jack Hannahan — not to be outdone — hit his second jack of the night, and fourth of the season, to right, and the Tribe was once again ahead by a pair at 4-2.
Then Grady Sizemore doubled, as the wheels began to come off for Hochevar an inning sooner than they came off last week. Asdrubal Cabrera walked, putting two on for Choo, who grounded into a force at second, sending Sizemore to third.
The good news for Santana as he came to the plate was that there were two outs, so he would be spared the indignity of possibly hitting into three straight double plays.
Choo stole second, taking away the force at second, but after an eight-pitch at-bat, Santana struck out to end the inning.
Talk about your bad night at the plate.
Melky Cabrera, the villain last Thursday, hit a homer leading off the sixth to draw Kansas City within 4-3, for the fourth home run of the game and the first for the Royals. But Masterson bore down and retired the next three, and the Indians retained the lead heading to their half of the sixth.
Masterson had thrown 87 pitches through six innings, making it likely that he would at least start the seventh, no matter what the score.
Michael Brantley singled with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, but this time LaPorta was retired on a fly ball, and to the seventh we went.