Royals fizzle after early power surge vs. Tribe
Moose, Salvy hit back-to-back jacks, but bullpen can't hold lead
CLEVELAND -- The Royals' first back-to-back blasts of the season weren't enough.
Despite a rousing start with homers by Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas, the Royals lost to the Cleveland Indians, 5-3, on a 44-degree Wednesday night weathered by 9,311 fans at Progressive Field.
"It was nice to get back-to-back homers to get us on the board, but they came right back," said Royals manager Ned Yost.
And they kept coming.
First, the good news for a home run-starved team.
Perez and Moustakas whacked their back-to-back homers in the second inning against Indians right-hander Justin Masterson.
Perez hammered Masterson's first pitch over the center-field wall, his first homer this season to end an 0-for-22 skid. Moustakas sent a 2-1 delivery rocketing into the right-field bullpen, his team-best fourth of the year.
If you're counting, that got the Royals' home-run count up to nine, still the fewest in the Majors. This was the second time they had two homers in the same game.
Moustakas added an RBI single in the sixth inning, Eric Hosmer had two hits to give him six in the last two games, and Jarrod Dyson went 3-for-4.
But, as Dyson lamented: "Those hits don't matter when you don't win the game."
Perez and Dyson had back-to-back errors that enabled the Indians to score a run in the sixth inning for a 3-3 tie. Michael Brantley singled, stole second and Perez's throw from behind home plate went past second base.
"I tried to make a perfect throw and the ball just bounced a little bit and went into center field," Perez said.
Brantley kept going. The ball went past Dyson in center field and Brantley raced home.
"I came in a little too hard. I probably should have just braked it down a little bit and played it off the hop because I probably didn't have a shot at him anyway," Dyson said. "My game is always full-speed, so I've just got to remind myself to slow it down a little bit."
Yost thought perhaps Dyson, who has a good arm, might have been able to throw out Brantley at third and he didn't fault him.
"You play to win, that's the name of the game. When you play to win, you're going to make mistakes. He got overaggressive and the ball got over his glove," Yost said. "You don't want that to happen because it changes a whole lot of different circumstances over the course of the game, but you don't ever want to take their aggressiveness away."
That was the last inning for Royals starter Jason Vargas. He got off to a sluggish start, making 48 pitches in the first two innings. The Indians matched the back-to-back homers in the second inning on Michael Bourn's two-run triple to right-center.
"He just flicked his bat out there and got a good part of the barrel on it. He was really sitting on that pitch. Good hitter, it happens," Vargas said. "The pitch was down, tip your hat, move on and see how the rest of the game plays out."
How it played out was that Vargas recovered to pitch four good innings marred only by the two errors.
"It was kind of like a mirror image of what he did in his last start," Yost said. "The pitch count got up the first two innings, but he contained the damage and he really settled in to pitch another four really good innings."
Vargas didn't mention the weather conditions but Perez, his catcher, did on his behalf.
"It was too cold today, I think," Perez said. "He couldn't feel the ball in his hand. It's hard to pitch in weather like that."
Vargas emerged with no decision and a still-impressive 1.54 ERA.
The Indians went ahead to stay in the seventh with a run off reliever Kelvin Herrera, who took the loss.
"Kelvin was fine," Yost said. "He got the first hitter out, ended up giving up a base hit and Salvy made a great throw, so we've got two outs, nobody on. Then, he threw a high 3-2 fastball to [Nick] Swisher, got it up a little bit and he stroked it into right field, and then the pitch that [Jason] Kipnis hit was a pretty darn good pitch."
Kipnis belted a double to right field and Swisher scored to give the Tribe a 4-3 lead. They added an insurance run in the eighth.
Two walks by reliever Wade Davis and Asdrubal Cabrera's bunt single loaded the bases with no outs. Yan Gomes struck out, but pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall blooped an RBI single to left before Davis got two more strikeouts.
"The tack-on run, I thought, was huge," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We're sitting over there in the eighth and we know Dyson is leading off, and he's one of the better basestealers in the game. So having that second run is big."
Indeed, Dyson did start the ninth with his third hit, a single, but with a two-run deficit, his running options were limited. Anyway, closer John Axford ended the game with three straight outs.
That gave the Indians two tight victories, 4-3 and 5-3, sandwiched around an 8-2 Royals win going into Thursday's series finale.
"I'd rather beat them up and blow them out," Francona said, "but they're good."