December 22, 2014

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Royals 8, Indians 2: KC snaps skid at Tribe’s expense

CLEVELAND — Shelley Duncan shook his head as he made his way back to the dugout in the eighth inning Wednesday night, displaying the frustration from another failed at-bat.

He wasn’t alone.

With Indians hitters doing little and the Royals doing a lot, Cleveland dropped an 8-2 decision at Progressive Field that accounted for Kansas City’s first win in 13 games.

The Indians managed just five hits to 11 for the Royals, who hit four home runs to account for all of their runs on the night.

Cleveland’s offensive futility began early, with Carlos Santana running his team out of a potential run-scoring inning in the first by getting caught in a run down after a one-out single.

The Indians mustered just three hits after the opening inning.

“We’re not going to be hitting people around every night,” said manager Manny Acta, whose team lost for just the third time in 11 games. “You have to take care of your 27 outs. We can’t be giving outs away.”

The recipient of the majority of those outs was Royals starter Luke Hochevar, who was a decidedly different pitcher than the Indians saw April 13 in Kansas City.

The right-hander, who allowed seven runs in just four innings of an 8-3 loss the first time around, surrendered just two on four hits over 6 2/3 innings.

“That’s how you get out of a losing streak, you get a good outing from your pitcher,” Acta said.

“He did a good job commanding the zone and expanding it,” said Cleveland first baseman Casey Kotchman, who went hitless with a strikeout in two at-bats against Hochevar and is mired in an 0-for-22 slump. “He did that well, well enough for his team to win. He got outs, plain and simple.”

While KC got a quality effort from its starting pitcher, the Indians got a mediocre one from Ubaldo Jimenez, the right-hander allowing four runs on six hits over six innings.

He allowed a two-run homer to the third batter he faced — Billy Butler — and another two-run homer to Eric Hosmer that made it 4-0 in the fifth.

“Ubaldo was just OK,” Acta said. “He started very slow and threw way too many pitches. He’s just not missing enough bats. But he battled for us.”

 

“I’ve been struggling with that,” Jimenez said of throwing strikes. “I was better than my last two games. That’s what I take out of this. As the game went on, I think my fastball got better. Those two pitches just killed me.”

Jimenez was asked if he considered making adjustments to his mechanics to remedy the problem.

“I’m too old to start changing my mechanics,” he said. “I have to find a way to be consistent. I’m not there yet.”

Mental errors plagued the Indians for much of the night, starting with Santana and including a fielding miscue that cost Jimenez in the pivotal fifth inning.

With one out and the Indians employing a shift, Alex Gordon hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and second baseman Jason Kipnis converged on the ball, but both stopped as it shot into the outfield between them.

Jimenez retired the next batter for what would have been the final out of the inning before Hosmer connected.

“It looked like Jason was closer, but that’s not what we preach around here,” Acta said of the play. “You collide. You don’t just stand there and look at each other. It’s communication and awareness.”

The Indians scored single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to pull within striking distance, but the Royals put it away in the ninth with back-to-back homers from Alex Gordon and Butler off Jairo Asencio.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.