CLEVELAND — For the second straight night, an unheralded Royals starter shut down the Indians’ offense. Only this time Cleveland’s hitters didn’t have C.C. Sabathia to save them.
With Brian Bannister — no relation to former Indian Alan Bannister nor heralded distance runner Roger Bannister — stifling them through seven innings Wednesday night, Cleveland fell 4-3 to Kansas City, which evened the series at a game apiece.
The first-place Indians have fared well against Central Division opponents (16-7), but not the last-place Royals, who have won three of five games against them, and have a chance to hand Cleveland its first series loss at home today.
The Indians and Royals have split the all-time series 244-244.
“They always bring their “A” game and seem to beat us around a little bit and we’ve got to figure out why,” said Cleveland starter Paul Byrd, who saw his four-game winning streak come to an end, allowing four runs on 10 hits through six innings.
The Indians had little success figuring out Bannister, the son of former big league pitcher Floyd Bannister, who was just as effective as his rotation mate Jorge De La Rosa, who deserved better than a 1-0 loss to Sabathia and the Indians on Tuesday.
Bannister, a 26-year-old right-hander who entered his eighth start of the season with just one win (three in his big league career), got No. 2 by allowing one unearned run on five hits.
The Indians scored their only run off Bannister in the sixth when an error on a grounder from leadoff batter Kelly Shoppach led to a two-out RBI double from Travis Hafner. Bannister shut out Cleveland on three hits through the first five innings.
“I wish we could have done a better job against him,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, whose team leads the division by 2½ games over Detroit. “I thought we made some quick outs, but I thought he threw a whale of a ballgame.”
It was a forgettable night for Byrd, who lost for the first time since April 26, allowing three of his four runs in the first four innings.
Location mistakes led to consecutive doubles from Joey Gathright and David DeJesus and two Royals runs in the third, with Byrd allowing a solo shot to Ryan Shealy that put Kansas City in front 3-0 in the fourth.
That was plenty of support for Bannister, who employs a similar style to Byrd, a soft-tossing right-hander.
“I got outpitched by another pitcher that’s right-handed and lives in the mid to high 80s (mph),” Byrd said. “I feel like this one’s on me. I need to make better pitches and I just didn’t do it tonight.”
Byrd’s streak of consecutive innings without a walk came to an end at 48 when he intentionally walked DeJesus with a runner on second and one out in the sixth. It worked in his favor with the Indians getting a double-play line out to end the inning.
“That doesn’t bother me,” Byrd said of the decision to walk DeJesus. “The team comes first. It was the right move.”
Byrd’s streak is the longest by an Indians pitcher since at least 1957.
With Bannister gone, Cleveland mounted a late rally against KC’s shaky bullpen, putting runners on first and second with one out in both the eighth and ninth innings, but scoring just one run in both innings.
Victor Martinez’s sacrifice fly brought the Indians to within two runs of the Royals in the eighth, but the run had its cost. Anticipating a potential big inning, Wedge lifted Hafner for pinch runner Franklin Gutierrez. The move came back to bite the Indians when they scored once in the final inning and had the bases full with two outs and Hafner’s former spot in the order coming to the plate.
Gutierrez batted instead, hitting a fielder’s choice grounder to short to end the game.
“You can’t assume you’re going to load the bases with two outs in the ninth inning,” Wedge said.
Cleveland’s bats have lagged the past two nights, producing just four runs off Kansas City pitching.
“We’re not going to get 10 runs every game,” Martinez said. “We’re not going to get 15 hits every game. We just have to battle, get the hits we’re going to get and see what happens.”
The answer was not much on Wednesday night.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Kansas City
TIME: 12:05 p.m.
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Carmona (6-1, 3.29 ERA) vs. Perez (2-5, 5.61)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM