By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: The Indians’ loss Wednesday afternoon was brought to you by Garmin GPS navigation systems, which guarantees that even major-league pitchers will be able to locate first base with their throws.
If anything stood out in the 6-2 loss Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field to the Kansas City Royals, it was the inability of pitchers from both teams to make accurate throws to first.
This skill should not be that difficult to master, yet Royals starter James Shields made one errant pickoff throw and missed a throw from first baseman Eric Hosmer that would have retired Jason Kipnis.
Tribe starter Scott Kazmir delivered a wild pickoff throw to first in the fifth inning, and reliever Rich Hill did the same in the seventh. Shields’ two errors — both in the same inning — cost his team nothing. The errors committed by the Indians’ pitchers led to two runs.
The Tribe might not have won the game, anyway, but a simple throw to hold a runner close at first base should not have dire consequences.
“When you only have a couple or three hits, you can’t give the other team extra opportunities,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
For whatever reason — a full moon is not the answer, the game began shortly after noon — the Indians did not play a particularly clean game. In addition to pitchers’ errors, right fielder Drew Stubbs tried for a shoestring catch of Emilio Bonifacio’s sinking line drive and it skipped past him for a triple that became part of a three-run rally in the first inning.
“He just didn’t get to it,” Francona said of Stubbs.
Maybe Stubbs should have recognized that he couldn’t catch the ball, pull up and play it for a single.
Stubbs also lost Mike Moustakas’ foul fly ball to right in the sun, giving him life at the plate. Moustakas took advantage of the opportunity by delivering a single to drive in the final Kansas City run.
The Tribe actually got four hits — not two or three, as Francona referenced — which made it virtually impossible to compensate for any mistakes the Indians made.
Shields (11-9, 3.38 ERA) was responsible for turning the Tribe’s bats into toothpicks. He delivered eight strong innings, giving up both runs, walking one and striking out seven.
He tried to finish the game but gave up singles to Kipnis and Carlos Santana to start the ninth inning, so closer Greg Holland earned his 42nd save of the season by striking out the three batters whom he faced.
“Shields knows how to fix his pitches up,” center fielder Michael Bourn said. “He throws hard enough that you can’t sit off-speed. He’s a good pitcher. You have to tip your cap sometimes.
“If he’s off a little bit, you might have a chance to get his pitch count up. If he’s on, you have to hit him out of the game or you’re not going to hit him.”
Shields gave up both runs in the first inning on Michael Brantley’s two-run single. He did not give up another hit until the ninth, retiring 22 of the next 24 batters whom he faced.
“Brantley’s hit was big at the time,” Francona said. “But the rest of the game, Shields stopped throwing anything in the middle of the plate.
There‘s no shame in losing to Shields, who is always capable of shutting down an offense.”
“The Shields I knew and remember never really left; he’s always been there,” said Kazmir, who was Shields’ teammate with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kazmir (8-8, 4.24 ERA) gave up three runs in the first, including a home run by leadoff batter Alex Gordon on the first pitch of the game.
“The first pitch was a fastball away,” Kazmir said. “It was a good pitch, but he put a good swing on it. Then they hit some balls that found holes; I think three of them in a row.
“After that, I just tried to battle and keep it right there. Overall, it was a very frustrating day for all of us.”
After Kazmir had thrown 87 pitches two batters into the fifth inning, Francona summoned Bryan Shaw to rescue him. Kazmir kept the Royals at bay in the second, third and fourth, but he gave up consecutive singles to start the fifth.
“During the course of the outing, Kazmir had trouble putting hitters away,” Francona said. “Because of that, he gave up a lot of hits. His pitch count started to get up there, and the way Shields was pitching, we needed to stop it right there.”
That didn’t happen, either. Kazmir was charged with four runs (three earned) and nine hits, but the bullpen gave up the other two.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.