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Perfect early, Hammel's fate turns quickly

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

CLEVELAND -- Jason Hammel retired the first 16 Indians he faced Saturday night. But the Royals right-hander insisted he really wasn't focused on the possibility of a perfect game.

"I wasn't thinking about it," Hammel said after Kansas City's 4-0 loss at Progressive Field. "It popped into my mind because you don't have a runner. I'm just trying to execute pitches."

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CLEVELAND -- Jason Hammel retired the first 16 Indians he faced Saturday night. But the Royals right-hander insisted he really wasn't focused on the possibility of a perfect game.

"I wasn't thinking about it," Hammel said after Kansas City's 4-0 loss at Progressive Field. "It popped into my mind because you don't have a runner. I'm just trying to execute pitches."

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But within moments, Hammel's fate and the fate of the struggling Royals changed quickly. First, Bradley Zimmer broke up the perfect game with a single. Not long after, Roberto Perez smacked a Hammel two-seamer for a two-run homer, and with the Royals' offense shut out in an MLB-long 25 straight innings, that's all the Indians would need.

"Slider up got hit up the middle [by Zimmer]," Hammel said. "It was a hanging slider. That's when the perfect game was gone, but other than that, they were able to put some balls over the fence and that's what hurt us. We're trying to scratch out a few runs ourselves. We pitchers just have to do a better job of keeping it close."

In the seventh, Hammel surrendered home runs to Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana. A few batters later, Hammel's promising night was over. He gave up six hits and four runs through 6 2/3 innings.

"Overall, the story is that you just have to keep the ball in the yard," said Hammel, who's allowed 22 homers this season. "It's been a confusing year for me, because it feels like the majority of the runs I've given up this year have been on homers. You got to keep the ball on the ground."

Royals manager Ned Yost nonetheless was impressed with Hammel's effort.

"I thought he was phenomenal the first five innings," Yost said. "He had good stuff, and he was spot on. He was tremendous. In the sixth inning, he gave up the base hit to Zimmer, tried to go in on Perez, and kind of just leaked back middle-in."

Yost said he didn't hesitate to send Hammel out for the seventh inning, even though Hammel has only pitched through the seventh three times out of 26 starts this season.

"His pitch count was very manageable at that point, and it's hard to guard against home runs," Yost said. "You start grouping together hits, then you start looking at your bullpen. At that point I thought his stuff was still pretty good."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Jason Hammel