Cheslor Cuthbert breaks his hitless streak, but Royals fall victim to four-run inning

Royals’ Ned Yost and Glenn Sparkman react to 4-2 loss in Cleveland

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost and starting pitcher Glenn Sparkman react to 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Aug. 24, 2019. Sparkman allowed four runs in 4 and 1/3 innings.
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Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost and starting pitcher Glenn Sparkman react to 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Aug. 24, 2019. Sparkman allowed four runs in 4 and 1/3 innings.

The Royals weathered the storm known as Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, but they still couldn’t get their offense jump-started against the Indians bullpen.

The Royals didn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position in a 4-2 loss to the Indians in the second game of a three-game set between the teams in front of an announced 33,349 — the second sellout of the season — at Progressive Field on Saturday night.

The biggest positive takeaway from the Royals clubhouse was that infielder Cheslor Cuthbert finally got to breathe a sigh of relief and allowed himself to crack a smile after the game.

He’d been mired in a hitless streak that had dragged on since Aug. 8, each at-bat pulling him deeper into a hitter’s abyss.

“Wow. It’s a lot of relief for me,” Cuthbert said. “I don’t know what really happened. I’ve never been in that situation, so many at-bats without getting a base hit. At the beginning, I thought that’s okay. I don’t get a base hit. After I got like 20 or 30 at-bats, it started getting into my head. Thank God it happened today.”

Cuthbert snapped out of the 0-for-40 hitting slump with a sixth-inning double that nearly went out of the ballpark. Cuthbert, who also walked and scored a run in the game, was four at-bats shy of tying the club record for consecutive hitless at-bats of 0 for 44 set by Joe Keough in 1969.

His double in the sixth missed being a home run by a few feet. Instead it plunked high off the left-field wall and fell back into play.

Cuthbert didn’t see where the ball hit; initially he thought it might be a homer. All that mattered was that it wasn’t going to be caught and the nightmare had ended.

“To tell you the truth, I felt like I had a big (weight) on my back,” Cuthbert said. “When I got a base hit, I felt like everything just went away. I just feel like a new person.”

Clevinger, a right-hander, limited the Royals to one run on four hits and two walks in 5 and 2/3 innings. He struck out eight Royals and left the game with a 4-1 lead.

Clevinger (9-2) entered the night having compiled an 8-0 record and a 1.96 ERA against the Royals in 13 appearances (12 starts).

In his two starts against the Royals earlier this season, Clevinger held the Royals to one run on 12 hits over 13 innings. He struck out 16 batters in those two starts without walking anyone. The Indians won both of those Clevinger starts.

Saturday night, Royals right-hander Glenn Sparkman (3-9) gave up four runs on six hits (one home run) and three walks in 4 and 1/3 innings.

Sparkman, who threw 100 pitches in the outing, faced eight batters in the four-run third inning. He gave up a double to Oscar Mercado to start the inning.

Sparkman nearly escaped unscathed. However, Mercado advanced to third on a wild pitch. Then Mike Freeman, who entered the game in the first inning when Jose Ramirez left with right wrist discomfort, hit a two-out broken-bat infield single that scored Mercado.

“It was a tough one,” Sparkman said. “A little dribbler in no-man’s. I made the pitch I wanted to in the right spot. It’s frustrating but that’s the game of baseball. Things don’t always go your way.”

After Jason Kipnis drew a walk, Franmil Reyes crushed a slider in the middle of the plate over the left-field wall for three-run homer — his 30th of the season.

The Royals scored in the fourth on an RBI double off the left-center-field wall by catcher Meibrys Viloria. Cuthbert, who had walked with two outs, scored on the play.

The Royals best scoring chance after that came in the seventh when Humberto Arteaga (hit by pitch) and Brett Phillips (single) reached, putting two men on with no outs. But the Indians defense came up with clutch plays and limited the damage to one run on Jorge Soler fielder’s choice.

Left fielder Tyler Naquin caught Alex Gordon’s line-drive into the gap to end the inning.

“I thought they beat us in the seventh,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “They made three great defensive plays — one by (Francisco) Lindor, the scoop by Kipnis on the pick, and Naquin in left. I thought that ball Gordo hit was going to create some havoc.”

The teams wrap up the series on Sunday afternoon. Left-hander Erik Skoglund (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his first start of the season for the Royals, while the Indians list right-hander Shane Bieber (12-6, 3.26) as their scheduled starter.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.