With a lineup that is losing starters at an alarming rate, the Cleveland Indians continue to have exasperating problems with initial games of series.
The first of two at home with the Kansas City Royals went up in flames as the Indians lost for the 11th time in 13 series openers with a 8-4 setback to the Royals.
Kansas City, 0-23 in games it trailed entering the ninth inning, found its way to get past the Tribe and closer Kerry Wood, scoring five times in the ninth after trailing 4-3 entering the final inning.
Wood, (0-2), began the disaster by giving up a lead off triple to Mike Aviles. With the tying run on third, David DeJesus hit a dribbler in front of the mound where Wood was unable to field it cleanly, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Billy Butler then tied the game with an RBI double, scoring Aviles and moving DeJesus to third.
After striking out Jose Guillen, Wood intentionally walked Alberto Callaspo to load the bases. That backfired when Wood walked Mitch Maier to give the Royals a 5-4 lead. Yuniesky Betancourt then put the game away and ended Wood’s night with a 3-run double and a 8-4 Kansas City lead.
Cleveland had battled back from a 2-1 deficit with single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh for a 4-3 edge
Trevor Crowe singled home a run in the firft, Jason Donald brought home a run with a sixth inning ground out and Travis Hafner gave the Indians the 4-3 lead with a run scoring single in the seventh.
But that all changed with the 5-run explosion by Kansas City in the ninth.
Bruce Chen (1-0) went 1.1 innings of relief, giving up a hit and walking one with three strike outs for the win.
Neither starter was involved in the decision as Gil Meche went 5.0 inings, giving up three runs, two earned won five hits with four walks and four strike outs. Cleveland starter Justin Masterson also went 5.0 innings, giving up two runs on five hits and four walks with three strike outs.
With the win, the Royals moved to within 1/2 game of the Tribe for fourth place in the American League Central Division. Kansas City, 16-25, can overtake Cleveland (15-23) with a win in a noon Thursday game at Progressive Field that will conclude the short 2-game set.
Thursday’s game will find Cleveland sending Mitch Talbot (5-2, 3.23 ERA) against Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar (3-2, 5.86).
The Central Division rivals, who play 18 times this season are even at 2-2 after four meetings. They get together again for three games Aug. 17-19 in Kansas City and return to Cleveland for a three-game set Aug. 27-29.
Cleveland will remain home for a 3-game series starting Friday against the Cincinnati Reds to begin 2010 inter-league play. at 7:05 p.m. Friday, Cleveland will go with Jake Westbrook (2-2, 4.27) while the Reds go with Bronson Arroyo (3-2, 4.78). At 7:05 p.m. Saturday, the Indians will send Fausto Carmona (4-1, 3.3) against Johnny Cueto (3-1, 3.67). The 1:05 p.m. Sunday game will feature David Huff (1-6, 5.36) while the Reds feature Homer Bailey (1-2, 5.21).