Royals lose ground in AL Central race with blowout loss to Indians

KC now 6½ games back of Cleveland after 10-1 defeat

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the not-too-distant past, the American League Central was blue and gold. In 2015, the Kansas City Royals captured their first AL Central title in club history and went on to win the World Series.

 

But since the Central was formed in 1994, the Cleveland Indians have won the division eight times — the most of any team in the division. Now it looks like they are asserting themselves again.

The defending division and AL champion Indians defeated the Royals 10-1 on Friday at Kauffman Stadium in the opener of a crucial three-game series for both teams as playoff and wild-card implications are high.

“It’s a big series,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “These games are two-game swings.”

The Royals (61-60) now trail the Indians (67-53) by 6½ games with 41 remaining.

“We know what’s at stake,” said Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield. “We have to go out and play the best we can. We’re aware of where we are and where we need to be. But we have to take it one game at a time. We can only control what we control.”

The Royals were never in control Friday. They trailed 3-0 before they even came to bat. Starter Ian Kennedy gave up two 411-foot home runs in the first inning. The first homer was a solo blast by Jason Kipnis and the second was a two-run shot by the recently acquired Jay Bruce, who also hit a three-run bomb in the seventh.

Kennedy, however, didn’t make it out of the third as the Indians scored two more on a two-out single by Yan Gomes to take a commanding 5-1 lead. In all, Kennedy (4-9) gave up five runs on six hits with two walks and one strikeout in 2 2/3 innings and saw his ERA rise to 5.06.

“He just didn’t have his good stuff,” Yost said.

Cleveland ace Corey Kluber quieted the Royals except for a solo home run by Brandon Moss in the second. Kluber (12-3) struck out four and walked one but left the game in the sixth with a sprained right ankle.

Though the Royals’ hopes for a division title seem to be fading at the moment, another Blue October is still a possibility. The Royals entered Friday just half a game back of the Angels for the second wild card and there is still (in theory) time to catch Cleveland, and they will play the Indians five times in their next eight games.

After this weekend’s series against the Tribe, the Royals will play a three-game series against Colorado at home before heading to Cleveland next Friday for another three-game series.

“These are the games that can put you in position to play for the games that you live for,” said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. “The playoff games, we all know how fun those are, especially here in Kansas City. But there’s a lot of work that goes into making those games and these are definitely key series in trying to make the playoffs.”

MOOSE WATCH — Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas didn’t hit a home run but doubled. Moustakas has 35 homers — one short of tying Steve Balboni’s single-season Royals record of 36 set in 1985. Moustakas’ teammates are hoping he sets the record at home.

“It’d be great if he does it in front of the home crowd,” Merrifield said. “That’d be awesome. It beats doing it on the road.”

PEREZ COULD BE BACK TUESDAY — Yost said there’s “a chance” catcher Salvador Perez could return as early as Tuesday when the Royals play the Rockies. Perez has been on the disabled list since Aug. 6 with an intercostal strain. Perez took two rounds of batting practice on the field Friday and could take full BP on Saturday. And if all goes well he could be back after the team’s off day Monday.

“We’ll ramp up his offensive stuff on Sunday, probably work with a machine and see where he’s at Tuesday,” Yost said.

SORIA TO DL — The Royals also placed reliever Joakim Soria on the 10-day disabled list with a Grade 1 left oblique strain. Yost said Soria, who was 4-3 with a 3.96 ERA in 50 innings, could be out 10-15 days.

Right-hander Kevin McCarthy was recalled from Omaha to take Soria’s spot on the roster. This is McCarthy’s fourth stint with the big league club this season. Entering Friday, he was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA in 24 innings with the Royals.

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