Derek Lowe had another miserable outing and the Indians couldn’t come back from an early deficit Tuesday night as the Royals beat up on the Tribe, 8-3, in the opener of a three-game series in Kansas City. The loss drops Cleveland to 50-53 and six full games behind the White Sox in the AL Central.
The trouble started in the bottom of the first. Alex Gordon led off the inning with a base hit, then moved to scoring position on Alcides Escobar‘s sacrifice bunt and came home on Lorenzo Cain‘s RBI single. It didn’t take long for Cleveland to respond: with runners at second and third and one out in the top of the second, Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman came through with back-to-back RBI hits off Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar to score Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana as the Indians took a 2-1 lead.
But it didn’t last long. After getting two quick outs to start the bottom of the second inning, Lowe gave up a single, a double, and a walk to load the bases and set the stage for Alcides Escobar’s two-run single. The seesaw continued to bounce in the top of the third as Asdrubal Cabrera doubled, moved to third on Jason Kipnis‘ groundout, and scored on Hochevar’s wild pitch to even the score at 3-3.
Then came the bottom of the third—and all hell broke loose. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out before Billy Butler scored on Lowe’s balk and Chris Getz delivered with a two-run double to knock Lowe out of the game. Josh Tomlin came in from the bullpen and gave up an RBI double to Alex Gordon and an RBI triple to Alcides Escobar before escaping the jam.
That was it for the scoring. Tomlin, Jeremy Accardo, and Joe Smith managed to keep Kansas City’s bats at bay for the next five innings while Hochevar, Tim Collins, and Aaron Crow shut out the Tribe from the fourth through the ninth. The Royals held on for an 8-3 victory to snap their five-game losing streak, while the Indians lost their fourth straight game.
The Good: We’re finally starting to see some personnel changes in the Indians’ rotation. Josh Tomlin’s relief appearance Tuesday effectively signaled that he would not be making his scheduled start Thursday; sure enough, Manny Acta revealed in his post-game press conference that Corey Kluber would be taking his place. Nothing’s official yet, but presumably there’s a good chance that Lowe will be removed from the rotation as well. It’s hard not to feel bad for them, but the team definitely looks better without the struggling Tomlin and Lowe in the rotation.
Meanwhile, Asdrubal Cabrera (2-for-5 with a double) and Michael Brantley (2-for-4 with a double) both had good nights at the plate, and Josh Tomlin held the Royals to just one run on three hits in 2.2 innings of relief. Perhaps he’s found his real calling?
The Bad: Derek Lowe. This really goes without saying—the veteran right-hander got rocked for seven runs on eight hits in only 2.1 innings. He walked two while striking out only one. Lowe has just been abysmal over the last two months, as this was just the latest in a long string of disastrous outings.
Speaking more generally, this losing streak has to end if the Indians are to have any hope of contending this year. Overcoming a six-game deficit with two months to play is definitely possible, but this team simply cannot afford to lose any more ground.
The “Huh?”: It makes sense and it was probably the smart move, but it was weird to see Tomlin coming in in relief. It’s also odd that the Indians listed him as the scheduled starter for Thursday until he entered the game Tuesday—either the team wanted to keep the shift quiet until the last minute, or Manny Acta and the front office made the decision to move him to the bullpen very recently.
Interesting Tidbit: Josh Tomlin has made only two relief appearances in his three-year MLB career (his first was on April 14), and both have been at Kauffman Stadium.