CLEVELAND: There was lots of good pitching in the Indians 2-1 loss to the Royals on Monday night at Progressive Field. Unfortunately for the Tribe, the visitors got one more inning of excellence on the mound than did the home team.
The ninth inning got a little ugly for Bryan Shaw, who gave up a leadoff double to Billy Butler and walked Lorenzo Cain. Rich Hill was summoned to pitch to Green High graduate David Lough, who attempted to bunt the runners to second and third.
Instead, Hill fell trying to field the ball, and Lough reached first on a single that loaded the bases. In came Matt Albers to do the impossible.
With an 0-and-2 count on Miguel Tejada, he threw a curveball in the dirt, but Carlos Santana, who homered for the Tribe’s run, blocked it just before it went through his legs.
Albers followed up with an almost identical pitch, but this time the breaking ball zipped between Santana’s legs and back to the screen as pinch runner Elliot Johnson scored from third.
“I was trying to throw the curve down,” explained Albers, who wanted Tejada to swing at an unhittable pitch. “I threw it a little too far. I wanted him to chase, but the ball stayed down and didn’t pop up.
“I didn’t miss by too much. I thought we needed a strikeout there.”
There was good news for Northeast Ohio fans, despite the defeat. Carlos Carrasco pitched like he intends to stay in the rotation.
Nobody took a DNA sample from Carrasco, but witnesses confirmed that this is the same pitcher who in his first and only two starts of 2013 gave up an aggregate total of 13 runs and 17 hits in 7⅔ innings. Never mind how that computes in terms of an ERA, suffice it to say that the figure isn’t something you’d want to show your dad on Father’s Day.
But that was then, this is now. Carrasco masterfully handled the Royals for 7⅓ innings, giving up four hits, one walk and one run that was let in by Shaw.
“He was so good,” manager Terry Francona said. “He was throwing his fastball to both sides of the plate and went with his breaking ball later in the game, when they’d seen him a couple of times. Carlos called a really good game, and they worked well together.”
Carrasco retired 13 batters before giving up a single to Lorenzo Cain in the fifth. Of Carrasco’s 22 outs, 11 came on ground balls and four on strikeouts, with five getting into the outfield.
“His fastball got up to 97,” Santana said “And he had a great changeup.”
In the eighth, the Royals played little ball well enough to tie the score 1-1. Chris Getz led off with a single, and Alcides Escobar bunted him to second.
That marked the end of Carrasco’s work day; Shaw replaced him and had the misfortune to give up Eric Hosmer’s bloop double to no-man’s land in center field to drive in the run.
It was more of the same frustration for James Shields, who must be wondering which of the baseball gods he offended. His mantra should be, “How well to I have to pitch to get a few runs?”
For the fourth consecutive start, the Royals’ right-hander was supported by two or fewer runs. That’s in a total of 27 innings pitched. No wonder he came into the game with a 2-6 record and a 2.79 ERA.
Shields, for all his excellence on the mound for the Rays (until this season) and Royals, has never had much success against the Tribe. His career record coming in was 1-5 with a 3.99 ERA in nine starts.
In six innings Monday night, Shields gave up only four hits in six innings, but he walked four and had to work his way out of serious trouble twice.
“Shields was pretty good,” Francona said. “We had a couple of chances but couldn’t cash in. Shields never gives in, and he can throw all of his pitches anywhere in the count. Look at his numbers. He’s been pitching in real tough luck.”
Jason Giambi led off the third inning with a single, and Ryan Raburn walked. John McDonald tried to sacrifice the runners ahead but bunted into a force play at third. Michael Bourn followed with a walk to load the bases, but Mike Aviles popped to the catcher, and Jason Kipnis struck out.
In the fifth, the Indians loaded the bases with two outs on two walks and Aviles’ single, but Kipnis struck out again.
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.