CLEVELAND -- Andrew Miller emerged from the bullpen door in center field on Friday night, while flames swirled around his name on the Progressive Field scoreboard. His entrance provided hope that order would finally be restored for the Indians' struggling relief corps.Reality did not align with hope against the Royals.
CLEVELAND -- Andrew Miller emerged from the bullpen door in center field on Friday night, while flames swirled around his name on the Progressive Field scoreboard. His entrance provided hope that order would finally be restored for the Indians' struggling relief corps.
Reality did not align with hope against the Royals. In a 10-9 loss, the Tribe's bullpen problems persisted in the form of five runs allowed across the sixth and seventh innings. The decisive blow was a go-ahead, two-run home run by Salvador Perez, whose blast welcomed Miller back from the disabled list.
It was a frustrating swing in moment late in a game that featured a rough outing from starter Trevor Bauer, plus a handful of missed plays in the field for an Indians team that prides itself on playing clean baseball. Cleveland remains atop the American League Central, but its 18-19 record is far below expectations.
"Ultimately, I think just as a team we're not really playing winning baseball right now," Bauer said. "We're not making winning pitches. We're not making winning defensive plays. The offense came through big tonight and we still weren't able to win, because we beat ourselves in two other aspects of the game.
"It takes a lot of attention to detail and a very high focus and intensity to win at this level no matter who you're playing. And we're not bringing that on each and every night right now."
Miller, who was activated prior to the series opener after sustaining a left hamstring injury on April 25, opened his outing by issuing a walk to Jonathan Jay. Trying to protect a 9-8 lead, the lefty bounced back with consecutive strikeouts, bringing Perez to the plate. The All-Star catcher then sent a 1-1 slider out to left field, giving the Royals the lead and marking the first runs allowed by Miller this season.
"We're always trying to lock it in and ride it out as long as possible," Miller said. "Honestly, I felt like outside of those first couple pitches, I made a nice adjustment and was starting to get comfortable and slow the game down. I just did a really poor job with one pitch and paid for it."
Perez's blast came in the wake of a three-run push in the sixth inning for the Royals, who also scored five runs (four earned) on 11 hits against Bauer in his 4 2/3 innings. Following Bauer's exit, Indians reliever Dan Otero allowed run-scoring doubles to Mike Moustakas and Lucas Duda, and Evan Marshall yielded an RBI single to Alcides Escobar.
It was more of the same for the Cleveland bullpen, which posted a 9.50 ERA in the 14 games with Miller on the shelf.
The late collapse by the 'pen effectively canceled out the work of the Tribe offense, which scored nine runs off Royals starter Jason Hammel to chase him after 3 2/3 innings. Jose Ramirez and Yonder Alonso each went deep in the first inning, and Michael Brantley punctuated a six-run fourth with a grand slam.
"If we score nine runs, we should win 100 percent of the time," Bauer said. "So, we're just beating ourselves right now. That's what it is. We're better than this."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Lindor's gaffe: Jorge Soler led off the sixth inning by chopping a pitch from Otero to shortstop Francisco Lindor, who gloved the ball cleanly. Lindor's throw sailed wide of the first baseman Alonso's reach, allowing Soler not only to reach, but sprint up to second base. Moustakas followed with an RBI double to ignite a three-run outburst in the inning for the Royals. Lindor has made five errors in his past eight games.
"It seems like we've been in a lot of these crazy games," manager Terry Francona said. "We don't have the margin for error right now. It seems like when we make an error, it costs us. That's the way the game is."
NAQUIN EXITS EARLY
During his two-run double in the fourth inning, Tyler Naquin pulled up after rounding first and limped some as he slowed into second base. Naquin was checked by Francona and a member of the team's medical staff, but the outfielder initially stayed in the game. After the six-run frame spread the score out, Naquin was lifted and replaced in right by Brandon Guyer due to left hamstring tightness, per the Indians.
Naquin was taken for an MRI exam after he left the game, but the club will not have the results until Saturday morning.
"He thought it was a cramp," Francona said. "But then, as the inning progressed, he was getting tighter and tighter. The hope is that it was a cramp. We've all had them and you know how it feels. But, we won't have it read until the morning. We'll see how it goes."
HE SAID IT
"It just seemed like it didn't matter where I threw it or what I threw, how hard I threw it, how soft I threw it. I felt like I had to strike everybody out to get an out. If they put a ball in play, I feel like it was -- whether it was to someone or not to someone or hard hit or soft hit or whatever -- it felt like they ended up on base. It's tough on night's like that." -- Bauer
"I know it was a tough [outing]. He didn't want to give up a home run, but I think that inning here was better for him than pitching in a Triple-A game." -- Francona, on Miller's appearance
Brantley's grand slam was his second this month, following the game-tying shot in the ninth inning on May 1 against the Rangers. Brantley is the first Indians batter with two grand slams in the same month since Travis Hafner did it in July 2006.
Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger (2-0, 2.76 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound at 4:10 p.m. ET on Saturday as the series against the Royals continues at Progressive Field. Clevinger is 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA in six career games against Kansas City. The Royals will counter with right-hander Jakob Junis (4-2, 3.18).
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.