Royals

Royals collapse late as Indians run their winning streak to 22 games

Cleveland’s Erik Gonzalez (right) scored the tying run in the ninth on a double by Francisco Lindor. The hit was given up by Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera (left). Cleveland has won 22 consecutive games.
Cleveland’s Erik Gonzalez (right) scored the tying run in the ninth on a double by Francisco Lindor. The hit was given up by Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera (left). Cleveland has won 22 consecutive games. The Associated Press

They partied again in Cleveland on Thursday. They chanted and sang and swayed and bathed in the improbability of baseball. They watched a winning streak move to 22 games, the second longest run in the last 101 years. And inside the visitors clubhouse, they sat and dined in silence.

In the moments after a 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians in 10 innings, after Kelvin Herrera had blown a save and Alex Gordon came just inches from killing a winning streak with his glove, after the Royals had watched their postseason hopes take another shot, they returned to a clubhouse and sat spread across the room, pondering another defeat.

The late collapse left the Royals 72-74 and five games behind the Minnesota Twins in the American League wild-card race with 16 games to play. It denied them, at least for one night, a rare place in history.

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“We were about to break that streak,” Herrera said.

Leading 2-1 and one strike away from victory in the ninth, Herrera hurled a 2-2 fastball to Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor. The baseball caught too much plate and Lindor, the toothy, joyous face of the Indians, sprayed a double off the wall in left field, just past the outstretched glove of Gordon. Pinch runner Erik Gonzalez scored from first base as Gordon chased after the ball. For a moment, Progressive Field rocked as if it was already Game 7 of the World Series.

“It hit off the top of my glove,” Gordon said.

This has been life for the Royals during this forgettable second half, the one that could spell the end of this memorable era. The bullpen is under-manned and overmatched. The baseball tips off the top of the glove and settles in for a hit. The opponent is the charmed victor, the team riding the hottest run in a century. The Royals are history’s casualty.

“It was just kind of hit in that perfect spot where I had to make a decision to go for it or play it off the wall,” Gordon said. “But it was pretty close. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it.”

The end would come one inning later. Royals reliever Brandon Maurer surrendered a double to Jose Ramirez, issued a walk to Edwin Encarnacion and yielded a walk-off double to Jay Bruce. The Indians spilled out on the field as they celebrated their 22nd straight victory on the first night of a four-game series. The final moments, somehow, had vindicated Royals manager Ned Yost in a strange way.

In the bottom of the ninth, Yost had opted for Herrera, a reliever who had not notched a save since Aug. 16 in Oakland, a right-hander who had suffered through injuries and ineffectiveness over the last month. Herrera could only procure two outs before giving up the lead. Yet in a worn-down bullpen, the only available options were Herrera, Maurer and newcomer Mike Morin. One inning later, Maurer didn’t record one out before allowing the winning run.

By the end, Herrera had blown his fifth save of the season while his ERA in September ballooned to 16.88

“Bad year,” he said. “Bad year. When you have that kind of year, everything is kind of going to the wrong side. It’s just part of this game.”

In a postgame interview session, Yost personified frustration. When a reporter opened with a question about Herrera, Yost turned the answer toward rookie Jakob Junis, who had permitted just one run in a terrific 5  2/3 innings.

“First of all, I thought Junis pitched his butt off,” Yost said. “Let’s start with that before you jump on the negative stuff.”

Moments later, a reporter asked about Yost’s lack of options in relief and his continued belief in Herrera.

“I had him and Maurer left,” Yost said. “So obviously I did (think he was the best option).”

The Royals entered the day four games out of a playoff spot. A final run appeared improbable, even as a championship core approaches free agency this coming offseason. But this is baseball, after all, the bastion of the unpredictable, where a team can win 22 straight.

On late Thursday afternoon, Indians fans mobbed the bars and restaurants along 4th Street, crowding onto the sidewalks that lead toward Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field.

The Indians had won 21 straight games, setting the record for the longest streak in American League history and tying the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the second longest run since 1900. They sat just five wins from matching the 1916 New York Giants for the longest streak in baseball history. A city had been captured by the gathering storm, charmed by a dominating pitching staff and a white-hot offense and a soundtrack of The McCoys’ “Hang on Sloopy,” the Ohio anthem.

“Three weeks,” Yost marveled, speaking to reporters before the game. “Three weeks they haven’t lost.”

Three weeks. The run boggled the mind. Three weeks ago, the Royals had been here in the visitors clubhouse, suffering through a three-game sweep in which they were outscored 20-0 and shut out three straight days. The series represented victories two, three and four on the road to 21 straight.

On Thursday, however, the Royals came ever so close to ending the magic. First baseman Eric Hosmer dropped an RBI double into left field in the sixth inning off Indians starter Josh Tomlin, just past a sliding Abraham Almonte, breaking a 1-1 stalemate. Junis was calm and masterful for 5  2/3 innings, lasting 98 pitches.

“It definitely felt different,” he said. “The crowd was very into it. It was very loud. But I felt like I did a good job of kind of controlling the pace.”

Royals rookie starter Jakob Junis has not lost a decision in seven straight appearances, including six starts. He discussed his performance in the 5-2 win over the Twins at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9. He threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed

The bullpen would take over and hold on for 2  1/3 innings. Mike Minor was solid. Ryan Buchter escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth. And then Herrera jogged in for the ninth. He induced a grounder to shortstop. He surrendered a single to pinch hitter Tyler Naquin. He recorded the second out on a fielder’s choice. And then he threw five straight fastballs to Lindor.

“He was trying to go down and away, off the plate a little bit,” Yost said. “And (he) got it up out over.”

Moments later, Gordon sprinted back toward the wall. For a moment, he had it in his sights. He couldn’t secure the ball.

“That’s the way it goes,” Gordon said. “Give them credit. They’re on a little hot streak now and finding ways to win. Lindor came up with the big hit there.”

Indians 3

Royals 2, 10 inn.

Kansas City AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

5

0

1

0

0

0

.285

Cain cf

4

0

0

0

0

0

.299

Cabrera rf

4

1

0

0

0

1

.286

Hosmer 1b

3

1

1

1

1

0

.325

S.Perez c

3

0

2

0

0

1

.264

b-Bonifacio ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.251

Butera c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.248

Moustakas 3b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.273

Moss dh

4

0

1

0

0

1

.211

Escobar ss

4

0

3

0

0

1

.253

Gordon lf

4

0

0

0

0

2

.205

Totals 36

2

9

1

1

7

 

Cleveland AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Lindor ss

5

0

1

1

0

0

.277

Chisenhall lf

2

0

1

1

0

0

.291

G.Allen cf

1

0

0

0

1

0

.227

e-Jackson ph-lf

1

0

0

0

0

0

.303

Ramirez 2b

4

1

4

0

1

0

.314

Encarnacion dh

3

0

1

0

2

0

.252

Bruce rf

4

0

1

1

1

0

.255

Santana 1b

4

0

2

0

0

0

.266

Diaz 3b

4

0

0

0

0

1

.254

Almonte cf-lf

2

1

1

0

0

0

.231

a-Guyer ph-lf

1

0

0

0

0

0

.236

c-Naquin ph-cf

1

0

1

0

0

0

.258

Gomes c

3

0

0

0

0

2

.227

d-Mejia ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.222

1-Gonzalez pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

.277

R.Perez c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.219

Totals 36

3

12

3

5

3

 

Kansas City

010

001

000

0

2

9

0

Cleveland

001

000

001

1

3

12

0

No outs when winning run scored.

a-popped out for Almonte in the 7th. b-grounded out for S.Perez in the 9th. c-singled for Guyer in the 9th. d-out on fielder’s choice for Gomes in the 9th. e-grounded out for G.Allen in the 9th. 1-ran for Mejia in the 9th.

LOB: Kansas City 5, Cleveland 11. 2B: Merrifield (30), Hosmer (29), Lindor (38), Ramirez 2 (50), Bruce (26), Almonte (8). RBIs: Hosmer (86), Lindor (79), Chisenhall (53), Bruce (94). CS: Ramirez (5).

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 2 (S.Perez, Gordon); Cleveland 5 (Santana 3, Diaz, Jackson). RISP: Kansas City 0 for 6; Cleveland 2 for 9. Runners moved up: Moustakas. GIDP: Merrifield, Moustakas, Gordon, Diaz. DP: Kansas City 1 (Merrifield, Escobar, Hosmer); Cleveland 3 (Ramirez, Lindor, Santana), (Ramirez, Lindor, Santana), (Ramirez, Lindor, Santana).

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Junis

5 2/3

7

1

1

1

1

98

4.15

Minor

1 1/3

0

0

0

1

2

27

2.75

Buchter

1

1

0

0

2

0

19

3.20

Herrera

1

2

1

1

0

0

18

4.56

Maurer L, 3-6

0

2

1

1

1

0

13

6.55

Cleveland

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Tomlin

5 2/3

6

2

2

1

4

79

5.04

Smith

 1/3

0

0

0

0

1

3

3.08

Miller

1

2

0

0

0

1

11

1.62

Goody

 2/3

0

0

0

0

0

8

2.63

Olson

1 1/3

0

0

0

0

0

12

0.00

C.Allen W, 3-6

1

1

0

0

0

1

18

2.52

Holds: Minor (17), Buchter (17). Blown save: Herrera (5). Inherited runners-scored: Minor 1-0, Smith 1-0.

Umpires: Home, John Tumpane; First, Lance Barksdale; Second, Ted Barrett; Third, Angel Hernandez. Time: 3:21. Att: 30,874.

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