Royals miss mark following Gordon's slam
Eight walks costly in series opener against first-place Indians
KANSAS CITY -- Alex Gordon's grand slam resuscitated the Royals briefly on Tuesday night, but they suffered a relapse.
The Cleveland Indians, now leading the American League Central, won their fifth straight game by holding off the Royals, 6-5, at Kauffman Stadium. The Tribe leads Detroit by a half-game and third-place Kansas City by 5 1/2.
"It was a big game, we could've gained some ground on the Indians, but that's a good team over there," Gordon said. "They have a lot of solid players and it's going to be a grind when we play them, and that's what it was tonight. We just didn't catch some breaks and came up a little short."
There was a reason for that. The Royals' pitchers had too much trouble locating the plate.
"It was an exciting game, but you're kind of shooting yourself in the foot when you've got eight walks and a hit batter," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I mean half their runs came on the benefit of walks or guys on base and hit batters."
The fun part for the 15,625 fans was Gordon's slam -- his second of the season and of his career.
Indians starter Corey Kluber zipped through the first four innings and had a 4-0 lead when trouble called in the fifth inning, with looping singles into left field by Mike Moustakas and David Lough and a walk to Johnny Giavotella. The bases were loaded with none out.
The count went to 3-0 on Gordon and there was no place to put him.
"I was just looking fastball and hopefully it was a strike," Gordon said. "I was just trying to drive the ball with the bases loaded and one out. Maybe try to put it in the gap and I just got out in front of it and put a good swing on it."
Kluber was thinking just about what Gordon was thinking.
"I was trying to throw a strike first and foremost. Obviously, he was just sitting on a fastball, which is probably a 99 percent chance at least that I'm throwing a fastball right there," Kluber said. "He did a good job of getting what he wanted and went out there and hit it well."
Gordon was thinking about probable location as well.
"It was a little out. I was just kind of diving," he said. "I kind of knew they were going to throw a fastball away, so I was kind of cheating a little bit. But 3-0 count, sometimes you've got to make that call."
The ball soared over the right-field bullpen and Gordon became the ninth player in franchise history with two or more slams in a season. Two players had three -- Yuniesky Betancourt in 2010 and Danny Tartabull in 1988. The crowd was roaring.
"If you're a baseball fan, that was probably fun to watch," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "If you were sitting where I was, it wasn't so pretty."
Royals starter Luis Mendoza exhibited control problems from the time he opened the game with a walk to Michael Brantley. By the time the inning was over, he gave up two singles that loaded the bases and walked Carlos Santana to force in one run.
"He laid off a 3-2 breaking ball in the dirt that not a lot of guys do," Francona said. "Everybody in the ballpark is figuring fastball and he had enough to lay off of it. That was huge."
Then, Mendoza skimmed a pitch off Mark Reynolds' shoulder to force in another run.
The Tribe touched Mendoza for two more runs in the fourth when, after two singles, he walked the bases full and gave up a single to Asdrubal Cabrera.
"I gave up a lot of ground balls and they found holes," Mendoza said. "I don't think I got hurt with hits, I just got hurt with my command."
Subsequent relievers also exhibited a lack of command. Tim Collins walked the only two batters he faced in the seventh and he was replaced by Aaron Crow, who promptly walked Nick Swisher to load the bases. Two runs scored, on Santana's sacrifice fly and Jason Giambi's double, for a 6-4 Tribe lead.
In Collins' previous outing at Minnesota, he gave up a two-run homer and also two walks.
"It's just a rough patch," Collins said. "I've got to go out there and do a better job of throwing strikes and I'm just not getting ahead of guys. When you fall behind you can't do much. That's really all it is, I'm just not commanding the baseball and walking a lot of the guys."
The Royals came back in the eighth, but were held to one run. Eric Hosmer led off with a single and scored as Billy Butler drilled a double down the left-field line off reliever Vinnie Pestano. Pinch-runner Elliot Johnson moved to third on a groundout and Moustakas walked. Lough scorched a low liner, but second baseman Jason Kipnis got it on the first hop, fed shortstop Cabrera and started a double play. Lough was barely out.
"That kid was flying down the line," Francona said. "That was a great play. Kip stayed with it, gave Cabby a good feed and he got rid of it. That kid was flying."
A rally in the ninth against closer Chris Perez fell short. He issued a one-out walk to Jarrod Dyson and Gordon singled to right, Dyson stopping at second. But Alcides Escobar fanned and Hosmer grounded into a forceout.
Afterward Yost boiled the game down to its essence.
"I thought Alex Gordon gave us a big shot in the arm with the grand slam, but we came back in the seventh and walked the first three guys to set up a two-run inning for them," he said.