CLEVELAND — The Indians had a golden opportunity to gain ground in the American League wild-card race, but Zach McAllister couldn’t get the job done.
The right-hander allowed four runs in five-plus innings Tuesday night, giving the Kansas City Royals a lead they never relinquished in a 6-3 win over the Tribe.
Cleveland remained 1½ games behind Tampa Bay, which holds the second and final AL wild-card spot, with 18 games to play. The Rays lost 2-0 to Boston at Tropicana Field.
“I had five good innings, but the sixth one hurt me,” said McAllister, who is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his last three starts. “All of a sudden, they got to me. It didn’t go the way I would have liked.”
The Indians held a 1-0 lead after the fourth, thanks to an RBI single by Michael Brantley in the first off Kansas City right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (14-10).
Things began to fall apart for McAllister (7-8) in the fifth, when Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar tied the score with a 417-foot rocket onto the home run porch. It was his first homer in 467 at-bats, dating back to April 28 against Cleveland starter Justin Masterson.
In the sixth, Kansas City’s first four batters reached base against McAllister, allowing it to jump in front for good at 4-1.
Eric Hosmer walked and Billy Butler doubled before Mike Moustakas snapped an 0-for-16 slump with a two-run double to right. Salvador Perez added an RBI single, chasing McAllister after just 78 pitches, a throwing error and a balk.
“Zach didn’t have his best change-up tonight and I think their speed bothered him a bit,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
McAllister, who allowed six hits and struck out two, agreed.
“Their speed is always in the back of your mind, especially when they put someone on base,” he said. “They have a chance to create havoc because of it.”
The Indians touched up Guthrie for nine hits in six innings — and collected 12 in the game — but were their own worst enemy by hitting into three double plays.
“We got some hits, but didn’t bunch them together and rolled into a couple of double plays,” Francona said. “It seemed like we were right there the whole game, but we didn’t do damage and couldn’t get that key hit we needed.”
The Tribe’s best opportunity for a comeback came in the seventh against Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera. Michael Bourn doubled home Yan Gomes and pinch runner Jose Ramirez with one out to cut Cleveland’s deficit to 5-3.
Kansas City righty Luke Hochevar, however, entered and slammed the door by striking out Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis. Hochevar also struck out the side in the eighth, setting the stage for closer Greg Holland to pitch a perfect ninth for his 41st save of the season.
The Royals pulled within three games of Tampa Bay with the victory, but remain behind the Yankees, Orioles and Indians in the wild-card hunt.
“We know there are teams ahead of us, but we’re excited,” said Guthrie, who was drafted by the Tribe in 2002. “If we win games, we have a chance. If we don’t, we don’t. We know we have to win a lot of series.”
Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall tied his career high with three hits for Cleveland, while designated hitter Carlos Santana and Brantley each singled twice. The Indians failed to draw a walk off Kansas City’s four pitchers.
Indians relievers Nick Hagadone and Chen-Chang Lee allowed one run apiece in the seventh and eighth, respectively. Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Wood pitched 1⅔ scoreless innings to wrap up the evening.