KANSAS CITY, Mo.: Maybe the idea of finally going home overwhelmed the thoughts of the Indians. Or at least some of them.
They played hard but not well in the final two games against the Royals, who won both, including Thursday’s finale, 10-7, at Kauffmann Stadium.
Eleven-game trips are not the norm, particularly 11-game trips that include three hours, 46 minutes of rain delays and a 12-minute stoppage because the lights go out.
Average elapsed time from the scheduled start of each game to its conclusion — including the interruptions — was three hours, 37 minutes.
Before Thursday’s game, manager Terry Francona was talking about another issue when he altered course and said, “I think this trip has taken two months.”
Since when is time a reason to lose? It’s not, and after Thursday’s defeat Francona said, “I don’t think that had anything to do with the game. These guys like to play. But of course, they’re thrilled to be going home.”
The final game of the trip was played in a relatively snappy three hours, six minutes.
Offensively, the Indians had lots of contributors, but Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley came through more than once. Stubbs delivered a two-run homer and a two-run single to come up one short of his career best in RBI. Brantley had four hits, drove in one run and scored a run.
It wasn’t difficult to point to the culprits in the loss: The bullpen gave up six runs on only three hits in the final three innings.
Only three hits? The Royals didn’t need a lot of hits against Tribe relievers, because two were home runs, and guys were walking or being hit with a pitch ahead of homer perpetrators. That began even before the bullpen got involved.
Ubaldo Jimenez suffered a lightning-fast meltdown in the sixth, when he walked two, committed an error that filled the bases and gave up a grand slam to Lorenzo Cain. That cut the Tribe lead to 5-4.
“I just lost the strike zone that inning,” Jimenez said. “I tried to be too fine against Hosmer [leading off the inning] and walked him. Same thing with Billy Butler, [who also walked]. I didn’t have my slider that inning, and I had to throw a fastball to Cain.”
Jimenez was replaced by Cody Allen, whose second pitch landed over the wall in right for George Kottaras’ third home run of the year. That tied the score 5-5.
The Indians’ offense struck back in the seventh on Carlos Santana’s two-run double, but that only delayed the inevitable for an inning or two.
Joe Smith walked Alcides Escobar to lead off the seventh and gave up a home run to Hosmer on a 3-and-2 pitch to wipe out the Tribe’s two-run lead.
“The walk is what made me the maddest,” Smith said. “You can’t walk the leadoff hitter.”
In losses Wednesday and Thursday, the bullpen gave up nine runs in six innings, and Thursday the relievers issued three walks, all of which turned into runs. Jimenez walked five but threw five scoreless innings before he got in trouble.
Francona pointed out that his relievers walked the leadoff batter in each of the last three innings.
“We just put ourselves in tough positions,’’ he said. “Seven runs against James Shields (and the bullpen) should be enough. But we walked too many guys.’’
The winning rally included two walks and a hit batter plus pinch-hitter Salvador Perez’s three-run double. Matt Albers gave up the double, but Rich Hill contributed a walk and the hit batter.
Does the bullpen’s two-day malfeasance constitute a reason to worry over the longer haul?
“We didn’t get the job done,” said Smith, referring to his lodge brothers. “It was a good trip (7-4), but it should have been a real good trip.
“We’ve been hot and cold. It hurts more to us, especially guys who have been in the bullpen the last couple of years. We pride ourselves on being consistent.”
Smith found a potential silver lining to the relievers’ poor performances.
“It just stinks,” he said. “It leaves a sour taste in your mouth. But maybe it’s good, because when we go home to play Detroit, we’ll have a little chip on our shoulder.”
When Francona was asked whether the bullpen is trending down, he said, “After a tough loss like this, you don’t want to rush to judgment. That never makes for good decisions.”
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.