KANSAS CITY -- It has often been said that a double play is a pitcher's best friend. For the Indians, the double play was certainly their worst enemy in Friday night's 4-0 loss to the Royals.The Tribe grounded into a season-high four double plays through the opening six innings and
KANSAS CITY -- It has often been said that a double play is a pitcher's best friend. For the Indians, the double play was certainly their worst enemy in Friday night's 4-0 loss to the Royals.
The Tribe grounded into a season-high four double plays through the opening six innings and that paved the way for the Royals to break a scoreless game with a run in the sixth that was enough for starter Jason Vargas.
"As we got runners on, [Vargas] got more disciplined and we got less," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "It's no surprise that he's going to go offspeed, and we just didn't do a good job of staying back enough. We hit into a bunch of double plays, which hurt us."
Perhaps the double play that hurt the most came in the first inning. After Kipnis opened the game with a flyout to right field, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley delivered solid singles to set up a first-and-third situation. But cleanup hitter Carlos Santana rolled softly into a double play with second baseman Whit Merrifield fielding the ball with plenty of time to step on the base and deliver to first.
Jose Ramirez hit into a double play in the second and Santana and Lindor followed suit in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively. The Indians put their leadoff man on in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings, but they came away with nothing to show for it against Vargas.
"We took some good swings, but when guys got on base we started to force the issue," Kipnis said. "Just hit into those double plays instead of waiting back a little more. It's not his first rodeo doing that. As bad of a job as we did, you tip the cap to him. He pitched great tonight."
Indians manager Terry Francona also felt the rash of double plays was a result of his hitters trying to do too much against the finesse offerings of Vargas.
"We could get on but, especially with the right-handed hitters, we were getting big [swings] and getting those rollover ground-ball outs," Francona said. "Vargas really pitched well. It says a lot about Vargas that we've faced him a lot and he's able to go out there and have a 103-pitch shutout."
Thanks largely to the fact that Vargas got eight outs pitching to four batters, the veteran lefty was able to go the distance for his first shutout since 2014.
"You are always reaching," Francona said. "You want more. With a guy like that, you talk about keeping the line moving. That's the guy where the right-handers have to hit the ball the other way or at least think that way so that when we get something slower, we're not just rolling over."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City.