KANSAS CITY, Mo.: If the cops set up a speed trap inside Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City would make a ton of money.
The Runnin’ Royals is a phrase a marketing executive might fall in love with, but it’s also reality. No team in the American League takes the running game more seriously than the Royals.
They demonstrated that Monday night in a 7-1 win over the Indians, who fell 1½ games behind wild card leader Tampa Bay and a half game behind Texas, currently the No. 2 wild card team.
Only one Royals runner stole a base, but it led to a run and lifted the club’s league-leading total to 143. The Tribe also depends on speed, but ranks fifth in the league with 109 steals.
More lethal than a single stolen base were the mad dashes executed by Royals hitters on batted balls. Two triples boosted their league-leading total to 33, and they took liberties when it came to moving up a base on fly balls.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall committed lethal errors in the Royals’ three-run sixth. It’s difficult to blame the misplays on KC’s speed, but who’s to say Cabrera and Chisenhall didn’t try to rush things a little, knowing that any delay might cost them an out.
That said, teams seldom win when they score one run. For the second time in six days, James Shields shut down the Tribe attack, allowing only Chisenhall’s home run plus five meaningless hits in six innings.
Shields (12-9, 3.33 ERA) struck out 10, but the Tribe persisted in going down on strikes after he left, ending the game with 17, a franchise record for Royal pitchers in a nine-inning game.
Nothing like giving up consecutive triples to ruin a pitcher’s night.
Until the sixth inning, the Royals were hard-pressed to mount a sustained offense against Scott Kazmir.
However, Emilio Bonifacio’s one-out single, his steal of second and Billy Butler’s bouncer through the middle produced a run in the first.
In the third, Kazmir (8-9, 4.34 ERA) struck out Alex Gordon on a wild pitch and Gordon reached first. One out later, Eric Hosmer’s bloop single to right moved Gordon to third, and he scored on Salvador Perez’s two-out single.
So it wasn’t like the Royals were ripping the cover off the ball – until the sixth inning, when Perez led off by whacking a drive in the gap to left and hustling his way to third, barely beating the relay.
Lorenzo Cain followed with an even longer drive to center. It took one hop off the fence, and Cain ended up with a triple that scored Perez.
That was the end of the line for Kazmir, and probably a good thing for his mental health. No pitcher should have to witness (at least from the mound) what happened next.
Matt Albers relieved Kazmir and gave up an RBI single to pinch hitter David Lough, and one out later Alcides Escobar slapped a routine ground ball to Cabrera at short. He gloved it cleanly but his throw pulled Carlos Santana’s foot off first base for an error that put runners on first and second.
Gordon flied to right, and Lough took third after the catch. Escobar also made a dangerous dash for second and beat the throw. And with two outs, Bonifacio hit a bouncer to third that Chisenhall muffed, allowing Lough to score.
There‘s one thing to be said for the Tribe’s defenders. They bunched their errors into one inning, making them more effective.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. 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.