KANSAS CITY, MO.: Right-hander Zach McAllister wasn’t up for the challenge.
Not by spotting the Kansas City Royals an early four-run lead and giving up five runs (four earned) on five hits, two walks and four stolen bases over six innings in the Tribe’s 5-2 loss to host Kansas City Wednesday.
Now, the Indians will look to another young right-handed starter Thursday in newcomer Corey Kluber to try to halt their season-high tying five-game losing skid.
Kluber is taking Josh Tomlin’s spot in the rotation with Tomlin’s move to the bullpen. The Indians made room for him on the 25-man roster by designating struggling veteran pitcher Derek Lowe for assignment following Wednesday’s game.
“It’s been a rough five days – at the wrong time,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “It’s hard to believe that since our last game against Detroit (Thursday’s come- back victory against Tigers ace Justin Verlander ) we haven’t been able to do anything to help (ourselves) win a ball game. We’re not doing anything right, right now.”
It’s no secret that while this season’s Indians lineup will never be mistaken for anything close to a Murder’s Row, it’s been the team’s starting pitching that’s primarily to blame for the club’s sudden plummet. The Tribe was merely 3 ½ games back of first place in the American League Central standings at this time last week. Now, they’re a distant 7 ½.
“No one wants to be playing catch up baseball, especially when you’re in a losing streak,” Acta said. “It makes it harder, especially for our lineup – we don’t have a powerhouse here…To have to climb out of a hole right away with four or five runs, it’s extremely hard and guys start to press a little bit more.”
Before the game, Acta said he hoped McAllister wouldn’t feel the pressure of the club depending on him to be the one to turn around the starting pitching fortunes. Never mind the fact that the four much-more experienced starters before McAllister were a combined 0-4 with a 13.75 ERA during the losing streak that has likely wiped out any hopes the Tribe might have had of making the playoffs.
But it sure seemed that way when just 10 batters into the evening’s action, pitching coach Scott Radinsky was already making a visit to the mound to talk to McAllister – this after catcher Carlos Santana making the trip twice previously.
By then, the Royals had jumped out to a four-run lead, beginning with a two-run first inning that was aided by a double steal and Santana’s throwing error.
Kansas City got right back after McAllister in the second inning. With two outs, Chris Getz scored on Jarrod Dyson's RBI single and Dyson later came home on an Alex Gordon double.
The early runs were aided by the Royals’ aggressiveness on the base paths – their four stolen bases coming in the first two innings.
“(McAllister’s) working on that,” Acta said. “That’s been one of his issues in the past that he really worked hard on in the minor leagues. (The Royals) are very athletic. They run well and they took advantage of it. We ended up walking some of those guys who are not power hitters and we paid for it.”
McAllister shared that Radinsky’s message was simple: attack the strike zone to get strike one on the Royals batters. The reminder worked, as McAllister retired the next batter he faced on a groundout to end the second inning and then set the Royals down in order in the third and fourth.
“Zach struggled at the beginning, especially with a couple of walks, ” Acta said. “Then the stolen bases really hurt us. But after that, he got strong and threw the ball over the plate and was pretty good for four more innings after that. But the way we’re swinging the bats right now, we just couldn’t do much against (Royals starter Luis) Mendoza.”
Santana put the Tribe on the board in the fourth inning with a solo home run to right center field that bounced off the top of the wall. The play was reviewed by the umpiring crew, but was not over turned. It was Santana’s 10th homer of the season and cut the Indians deficit to three runs.
But the Royals got the run back in the fifth inning, once again rallying with two outs to push their lead back to four runs, 5-1.
Alcides Escobar kept the inning alive with a single to right field. Lorenzo Cain drove Escobar in with a double to left center then took third base on the throw home. The throw was too late to get Escobar at the plate and Santana double-clutched on his attempt to nab Cain at third.
“I wasn’t commanding the zone like I needed to,” McAllister said. “Later in the game I got a lot better with strike one. When I hit strike one, I feel like I’m able to make some good pitches later in the count to get some quick outs or strikeouts.”
The Indians final rally produced another run in the eighth inning before fizzling out against the Royals bullpen. Jack Hannahan doubled with one out against Mendoza and Asdrubal Cabrera drove him in with a RBI-single off left-handed reliever Jose Mijares.
While Acta wasn’t thrilled following the loss, there was no panic in his voice, felt no need to round up the players and have a loud, closed-door meeting.
“We talk to these guys more than you guys can imagine,” he said. “We just don’t announce it to the world. Talk is cheap. We still need to get out there and pitch, catch a ball and hit. You can only talk so much...We’re just going to have to show up tomorrow again, chin up, keep our head up and win one ball game.”