Royals rally in ninth, but fall to walk-off
Miscues prove costly in second-half opening loss to Tribe
CLEVELAND -- The lack of a big hit at a crucial juncture is hitting a raw nerve with Royals manager Buddy Bell.
His club had early chances to do significant damage on Friday night but had only tepid results in a 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.
"We just refuse to be aggressive offensively. It's driving me crazy," Bell said.
Take the second inning against Indians right-hander Jake Westbrook. Bases loaded with one out. Result: One run.
Or take the third inning against Westbrook. Bases loaded with no outs. Result: Two runs.
"We had Jake in trouble; we just again were real tentative offensively," Bell said. "We let him off the hook and, with Jake, he gets into a little rhythm and he's pretty good."
It was a bad start for a nine-game trip that's seen as a telling test for the Royals, who went into the All-Star break on a 9-4 roll. This trip winds through two other American League hot spots: Boston and Detroit.
As 31,624 fans watched on a delightful evening, the Royals tied the score, 4-4, in the ninth against Indians closer Joe Borowski. Billy Butler singled and pinch-runner Jason Smith got around on Jason LaRue's sacrifice bunt, Esteban German's single and Tony Pena Jr.'s sacrifice fly.
After the Royals' bullpen had collaborated for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Odalis Perez, the call went to Zack Greinke in the ninth. He'd been almost perfect in his previous six outings, betrayed only by two balls lost in the sun last Sunday afternoon.
But Travis Hafner drilled a one-out double to right field.
"I made a bad pitch to Hafner. He's pretty good and he hit the ball hard all day long, just at people," Greinke said. "And then that just happened."
Jhonny Peralta was intentionally walked and Ryan Garko grounded a single up the middle, scoring pinch-runner Mike Rouse with the game-ending run.
"It was a quick one," Greinke said.
Two fielding mistakes enabled the Indians to pull into a 3-3 tie in the fourth inning against Perez.
Pena booted Peralta's grounder to shortstop. The error was Pena's 15th and, oddly, 14 of them have come on the road. This was his second in Cleveland, giving him more errors at Jacobs Field than the one at Kauffman Stadium.
What makes the road so rocky for Pena?
"I have no idea, no idea," he said. "I was hoping that run wouldn't score, but it got around."
It did after a walk and Franklin Gutierrez's single loaded the bases. Peralta scored on another miscue, although no error could be charged.
Third baseman Alex Gordon fumbled Josh Barfield's grounder right at the bag. Gordon finally snatched the ball in time for a forceout at third but lost the chance for an inning-ending double play.
"Oh, yeah, definitely," Gordon said. "I was too quick and it took kind of a funny hop there at the end. I was definitely disappointed because I felt it was an easy double-play ball -- touch third, throw to first."
Bell acknowledged those gaffes, but obviously those bases-loaded chances were still preying on his mind.
In the second inning, one run scored on Joey Gathright's fielder's-choice grounder. Then Pena bounced out to end the inning. In the third inning, Ross Gload's forceout grounder got one run home and Gordon singled in another. But then Butler bounced into an inning-ending double play.
"You're going to make some mistakes, but you have to do things in other areas to overcome those breakdowns," Bell said. "We just weren't able to do it."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.