The first three Indians in this afternoon’s game at Progressive Field singled, and when Carlos Santana drew a bases-loaded walk to plate a run and tie the game at 1-1, one had the hope that maybe a big inning was in the offing and that — for once — Justin Masterson would be getting ample support.
Unfortunately, after the four-pitch walk to Santana, Shelley Duncan swung at the first pitch and popped out, then Kosuke Fukudome hit into a 1-2-3 double play, and the Tribe had squandered a big chance.
Kansas City managed 12 hits but stranded 10 men on base, and yet it was still good enough to defeat the Tribe 2-1, as Cleveland lost a chance to perhaps pick up a game on the Detroit Tigers, who are down 6-2 at the time of this writing in Minnesota.
Bruce Chen pitched 7.1 superb innings, allowing only five hits — and only two hits after that first inning back-to-back-to-back string the Indians put together. Chen (10-5) combined with two relievers to shut down the Tribe offense, as Joakim Soria pitched a one-two-three ninth to pick up save number 24 on the season.
And Masterson? Justin fell to 10-8 despite allowing only two runs on nine hits in six innings.
The Cleveland bullpen did its job again today, with Rafael Perez, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano each pitching a scoreless inning. But the bats did what they have done so often this season — let Masterson down.
In seven of Masterson’s eight losses in 2011 the Indians have managed two runs or less. In fact, the highest offensive total for the Tribe in any game lost by Masterson this year was four runs back on May 12 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays.
It was so bad this afternoon that the Indians were limited to a 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position, and that “1” was achieved on Asdrubal Cabrera’s single that loaded the sacks in the first.
After the first inning the Tribe never got more than one man on base in any frame. In the second Jerad Head beat out an infield single in his first big league at-bat, but was stranded. Same in the third with Santana after his two-out hit. Ezequiel Carrera walked with one out in the fifth, but was then caught stealing. And Head reached on an error to open the eighth (remember that the Tribe just needed one to tie) before Carrera grounded into a force at second, pinch-hitter Jim Thome fanned vs. Kansas City reliever Greg Holland, and Cabrera ended what turned out to be the last chance with a fly out to left.
So the Indians take 2-of-3 from the Royals, but at this stage of the season, when you have a chance for a sweep, you need to seal the deal.
With the loss the Indians fall into a temporary tie with the Chicago White Sox for second place, contingent upon how Chicago fares later this afternoon in Seattle against the Mariners. And the Tigers’ magic number has shrunk to 25 even if they should not rally against the Twins.
The Oakland Athletics will be in town beginning Monday night for a four-game set. David Huff (1-2) will get the start in the opener, while Brandon McCarthy (7-6) toils for Oakland. The Royals, in the meantime, now head on to Detroit for four with the Tigers.
Hopefully Kansas City can play Detroit as tough as they played the Tribe all through this weekend.