KANSAS CITY -- It might not feel like it at times, but the Indians have been one of baseball's most prolific lineups this season. That is due to the top-heavy nature of the order, which features one of the Majors' most intimidating trios right out of the chute.The problem for
KANSAS CITY -- It might not feel like it at times, but the Indians have been one of baseball's most prolific lineups this season. That is due to the top-heavy nature of the order, which features one of the Majors' most intimidating trios right out of the chute.
The problem for Cleveland is that things can go quiet in a hurry when pitchers find a way to shut down leadoff man Francisco Lindor (Mr. Smile), veteran Michael Brantley (Junior) and slugger Jose Ramirez (Enriquito). On Saturday night, the Royals accomplished that task and also got to Tribe ace Corey Kluber, resulting in a 7-1 loss for the Indians at Kauffman Stadium.
"We had a tough time," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We lean on them so much, and we will continue to. But, they've done a really good job against those guys the last couple nights."
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The defeat was the fourth in a row for the American League Central-leading Indians (73-56), who had not dropped four straight on the road since May 4-8. The theme on the current swing through Boston and Kansas City has been a collectively quiet showing from Lindor, Brantley and Ramirez.
Kluber (16-7) took the loss after allowing five runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, in which he struck out six, walked two and gave up a home run.
In the four games prior to Saturday's tilt with the Royals, the Indians managed eight runs total, including seven coming via home runs. Overall, Cleveland hit .238 as a team with a .388 slugging percentage. The bottom of the order did some heavy lifting in the Tribe's two wins against the Red Sox on Monday and Tuesday, but the lineup has limped in the past few games.
On Saturday, Kansas City (40-90) held Lindor, Brantley and Ramirez to an 0-for-11 showing, dropping the trio's average to .188 (13-for-69) with a .261 slugging percentage on the road trip.
Francona moved Brantley into the No. 2 spot -- between the switch-hitting Lindor and Ramirez -- on May 11. The Indians' Nos. 1-3 hitters led MLB in on-base percentage (.383), slugging percentage (.535), OPS (.918), wOBA (.388), wRC+ (146), walks (144), strikeouts (141) and steals (46) since that change, entering Saturday. They were tied for first in homers (58) and doubles (76), while ranking second in average (.299), runs (218) and RBIs (184).
Overall, Cleveland ranks third in the Majors with 648 runs scored on the season. A considerable amount of the damage has been done by three Tribe All-Stars.
"That's a really difficult job for any pitcher to contain the top three," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They've got a really good lineup up and down. It's deep. But Lindor-Brantley-Ramirez are as good a 1-2-3 punch in the American League. To be able to contain them and keep them off balance so they can't do any damage, it was important."
The Indians' lone run in the loss came in the second inning, when Yonder Alonso (Mr. 305) walked, moved to third on a double by Melky Cabrera (Melk Man) and then jogged home on a balk by Royals starter Heath Fillmyer (Filly). That was all the Kansas City right-hander relinquished in his six innings.
"The first three are just as dangerous as anybody," Fillmyer said. "With Boston's lineup between Mookie [Betts] and J.D. [Martinez] and [Andrew] Benintendi, they're just as good, if not better. You want to make sure you limit the damage and limit them to singles, if they do get on."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kluber's collapse: The Indians were only down 3-1 in the sixth, when Kansas City started tacking on some important insurance runs. First, Lucas Duda (Dude) hammered an 0-1 curveball over the heart of the plate out to right for a one-out solo homer. From there, Kluber gave up a single to Jorge Bonifacio (El Boni), issued a walk to Ryan O'Hearn (Brohearn) and allowed an RBI single to Hunter Dozier (Doz) before hitting the showers.
"I felt pretty good. I did make some mistakes," Kluber said. "I left a few balls in the middle of the plate and they hit a couple of doubles and a home run off of them. I also felt there were some pitches I executed pretty well and they did a good job putting them in play and found some holes with them. I wasn't perfect by any means."
HE SAID IT
"We look a little tired. We're going to have to find a way [Sunday] to show up and grind our way through and find a way to win. We've got a day off coming Monday, so we're going to have to fight through it." --Francona
"I think most teams are probably tired right now. It's that point of the season. You have to find ways to push through it -- motivate yourself -- whatever you want to call it. When you have those times when you're tired or dragging a little bit, you almost have to trick yourself where you're not thinking about it." --Kluber
Rookie Shane Bieber (Not Justin) (7-2, 4.36 ERA) is slated to start for the Tribe on Sunday, when the Royals host the Indians at 2:15 p.m. ET to wrap up Players' Weekend at Kauffman Stadium. Bieber is 3-0 with a 4.14 ERA in seven starts on the road this season. He beat the Royals in Kansas City on July 3 behind six solid innings. Righty Jorge Lopez (0-3, 3.99 ERA) will start for the Royals.
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.