Indians unable to hit Vargas, fall 5-3 to Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Every time someone from the Indians belted a ball into the outfield, there was someone wearing white with “Royals” across their jersey there to catch it.
It made for a frustrating night for Cleveland manager Terry Francona.
“We hit some balls real well,” he said after his club managed two hits against Kansas City’s Jason Vargas in a 5-3 loss Tuesday night, “but their outfield catches everything, almost.”
That may not change anytime soon, either. Defensive whiz Lorenzo Cain sat out Tuesday night to finish his two-game suspension for throwing a punch in a brawl with the White Sox, so he’ll be back patrolling centerfield for the Royals on Wednesday night.
Danny Salazar (3-1) did his best to keep Cleveland in the game.
After giving up a three-run homer to Eric Hosmer in the first — wiping out the 2-0 lead that Michael Brantley gave the Indians with his own homerun — Salazar held the Royals in check. He only allowed four runs on five hits, striking out nine in seven innings.
“I think I could have done a better job in the first three innings. It was very tough, very hard,” Salazar said. “My fastball wasn’t there.”
Jason Vargas (3-1) had no such trouble. The only hit he allowed besides the homer by Brantley was a double by Jason Kipnis in the sixth inning. Vargas wiggled out of that jam without any more issues, and turned over a lead to the Royals’ stingy bullpen.
Ryan Madson pitched a perfect seventh before but Kelvin Herrera served up a homer to Lonnie Chisenhall in the eighth, ending his streak of 105 1-3 innings without allowing one.
Herrera still handed over a lead to Wade Davis, though. He cruised through the ninth inning in place of injured All-Star closer Greg Holland for his sixth save.
“We’re good at winning the first game,” said Royals manager Ned Yost, whose club is 9-0 in series openers. “We just go out and play good baseball. That’s all we worry about.”
Things started promising for the Indians when Carlos Santana worked a one-out walk and Brantley stepped to the plate in the first. He caught a hanging 1-1 pitch from Vargas and managed to guide it just inside the left-field foul pole to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.
The advantage sure didn’t last for long.
Gordon led off the bottom half with a base hit, and Kendrys Morales was plunked by Salazar, before Hosmer stepped to the plate and took a mighty chop at a 2-0 pitch. The ball soared over the wall in left-center, splashing into the fountains more than 415 feet away.
It was Hosmer’s fourth of the year. He had nine all of last season.
That was plenty of offense for Vargas, who built on a solid start against the Indians last Monday. After allowing two runs on three hits in five innings in that 6-2 victory, he turned to pinpoint accuracy and veteran guile to flummox the Indians on Tuesday night.
Vargas retired 14 of 15 batters between Brantley’s homer and Jason Kipnis’ double.
“He’s always got that changeup. And it’s almost like you have to be disciplined enough to take one side of the plate or the other because he can get you in-between so well,” Francona said. “He can add and subtract, get you out on your front foot and kind of takes the sting out of the bat.”
Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher (knee surgery) was activated from the disabled list after a rehab stint at Triple-A Columbus. He went 0 for 4, striking out to end the game.
Indians: C Yan Gomes (sprained knee ligament) threw to second from a crouch before the game, another step forward in his rehab. “Just have to trust in the process,” he said.
Royals: Holland (strained pectoral muscle) is expected to come off the DL on Wednesday. ... SS Alcides Escobar is still waiting for MLB’s doctors to clear him following a concussion. He is eligible to return Thursday. “Raring to go,” Yost said.
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco tries to turn around his fortunes against the Royals. He is 2-4 with a 4.82 ERA in 12 career appearances, including 0-2 last season.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy carried a shutout into the eighth inning in an 8-1 win over Detroit his last time out. He is 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA against the Indians.