Without getting overly melodramatic, if one day in a pennant race can be said to have been a dagger day, it was today.
First, the Detroit Tigers, after trailing 8-1, rallied to beat the Chicago White Sox 9-8, dropping Chicago 7.5 games behind in the American League Central.
Sure, it is possible that the ChiSox could bounce back and get back into the race, but possible and probable are two words that can be very far apart.
Then the Indians, probably (although they would surely not admit it) deflated by the news on the scoreboard from Detroit, let Luke Hochevar (10-10, 4.76 ERA) look like Cy Young with eight innings of three-hit, one-run ball (the run being unearned), and the Kansas City Royals got to David Huff with four separate scoring innings on their way to a 5-1 win that dropped Cleveland 6.5 games behind the Tigers and reduced Detroit’s magic number to 19.
Cleveland drew first blood in the first inning on a Carlos Santana sacrifice fly, but the Royals countered with two in their half on a double by Jeff Francoeur.
Alex Gordon’s fielder’s choice grounder made it 3-1 in the second, and the Royals tacked on another run in the fifth on a Billy Butler double, and made it 5-1 in the sixth on Johnny Giovatella’s 2nd homer of the year.
Huff’s night ended after allowing five runs — four earned — in six innings. In dropping to 2-3 on the season, Huff’s ERA rose to 2.81.
Hochevar, who had allowed 12 runs to the Tribe in 12.1 innings of work this season, shut down the Indians’ bats when Cleveland needed them most, adding more elevation to the hill the Indians must climb to catch Detroit. Although still only five back in the loss column, as it stands right now, even a sweep of the remaining six games with the Tigers leaves the Tribe — all other things being equal — a half-game back of the Kitties from the Motor City.
And of course, Justin Verlander awaits on Wednesday when the Indians and Tigers wrap up their three-game series at Progressive Field.
But hey, the good news for the Tribe was that two of their three hits off of Hochevar were doubles. Not that any runs scored in the innings in which the doubled occurred.
Josh Judy and Chad Durbin each pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Huff, while Greg Holland finished up for the Royals with a perfect ninth.
The Indians will try to earn a victory in the series when they face the Royals for the last time this season on Sunday at 2:10, with Jeanmar Gomez facing Jeff Francis.