If this game didn't happen to be the sixth loss in a row, I guess I'd be a bit more circumspect about this loss. But because it's the sixth loss in what has the potential to be a historically bad road trip, I've thrown away circumspection for the time being.
Corey Kluber took a page from the rest of the guys in the rotation and stunk it up early, and for a time it looked as though he wouldn't make it out of the first inning. His first pitch of his first start in the big leagues was a get-me-over fastball, and Alex Gordon was waiting for such a pitch, smacking it over the fence for a home run. That clearly rattled Kluber, who would allow an Alcides Escobar single, an Escobar stolen base, and a Lorenzo Cain RBI single. It was quickly 2-0 Royals.
It would get worse. After Kluber retired both Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas, he walked Brayan Pena and then gave up a three-run homer to Eric Hosmer. Now it was 5-0. Next he allowed a Chris Getz triple, and Getz would score on a passed ball. 6-0 Royals. To his credit, though, Kluber kept it together and finally got out of the inning by striking out Alex Gordon. But the damage had been done, and given how the Indians have hit lately, six runs seemed to have ended the game before it had gotten past the first inning. Kluber would pitch much better after getting through the first inning, mixing in his slider with his four-seam fastball and sinker; he was throwing his fastball in the mid-90s, and after settling down, was missing bats. He'll get a long look in the rotation now, and I think it's deserved.
Thankfully Bruce Chen was actually worse than Kluber, at least from a runs/inning basis. The dormant Tribe offense woke up thanks to Chen's enticing strikes, and the Indians scored a run in the second (on Vinny Rottino's sacrifice fly) and three more in the third. After the Indians cut the deficit to 6-4, Royals manager Ned Yost had had enough, pulling Chen after just 2.2 innings of work.
The Indians would actually tie the game when Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer in the fifth. Six runs is stratospheric territory of late for the Indians, but unfortunately, even though Kluber and the bullpen would hold the Royals down from the 2nd until the 11th inning, the Tribe bats couldn't push across another run.They only left four runners on base, so they weren't missing opportunities, they weren't even getting many opportunities.
It was the Indians' best chance by far to win a game in a week, so Manny Acta pulled out all his bullpen stops, using Smith, Pestano (for 2 innings) and even Chris Perez in a tie game. And it worked until the 11th, when Perez was called upon to get Alcides Escobar with runners on first and third with two outs. Perez got ahead of Escobar, but the Royals shortstop punched a single through the hole in the left side of the infield to win the game and give the Royals the sweep.
The Indians have now lost six straight to the fourth and fifth place teams in the AL Central. We've been pretending for a month or so that the Indians are in contention, but I think these last two series have made it crystal clear: the Indians need to start planning for next year.