CLEVELAND: The Indians certainly had their opportunities but never could deliver the needed hit, wasting several scoring chances in a 5-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Saturday at Progressive Field.
Led by Francisco Lindor’s solo home run in the first inning and Jason Kipnis’ RBI single in the third, the Indians took a 2-1 lead but were then held at bay the rest of the day.
The Indians three times stranded multiple runners on base after the third inning, and all three times didn’t get a ball out of the infield.
Facing Royals starter Jason Vargas (6-3), the Indians left the bases loaded in the fourth. Kipnis narrowly missed a grand slam down the right-field line with two outs but pulled it foul by a few feet. He then popped out to first base.
The fifth and seventh innings ended with similar results. Jose Ramirez with two on and two out in the fifth popped out to second base. And with two on and one out in the seventh, Edwin Encarnacion grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Indians (24-23) finished the day 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.
“We’ve got to get a line moving and keep it moving,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It seems like at times we get runners on with two outs. Then you have to get a hit as opposed to giving yourself a lot of opportunities.
“When you don’t cash in, it’s not that big [of a] deal because you’ll have the next inning, you’ll have another opportunity. When you don’t, it’s really glaring.”
The Royals (21-27) threatened while facing starting pitcher Danny Salazar (3-5) and finished the job against the bullpen. With the Indians leading 2-1 in the sixth, Salazar gave up a double and walked two to load the bases and end his day.
Boone Logan’s first and only pitch was lined back up the middle by Alex Gordon for an RBI single to tie it 2-2. Facing Nick Goody, Alcides Escobar then rifled a two-run double just over the head of Lindor to give the Royals a 4-2 lead.
Mike Moustakas added a solo home run against Shawn Armstrong in the ninth for an insurance run.
Salazar allowed four runs — three earned — on six hits and five walks, continuing his slow, frustrating start to the 2017 season, in which he now has a 5.50 ERA.
The Indians could be nearing a move with Salazar to try to get him on the right track. A couple of weeks ago the club revamped his pregame routine in an effort to fix his first-inning issues, though the results haven’t been quite what they wanted.
Next for Salazar could be a temporary move to the bullpen, which could be made a bit easier with Corey Kluber’s possible return to the rotation on Thursday. The club has yet to talk through that decision, though.
“I still think he didn’t command the ball where he wanted to, and there’s those walks that are mixed in that really hurt, like the inning when he came out,” Francona said. “We got out of innings, there was traffic the whole time.
“We’ll kind of put our heads together and see what’s the next best step for him because I think he’s probably searching a little bit, too.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.