KANSAS CITY – The Indians played their second-to-last game in limbo on Saturday night and it was one to forget.
In losing to the Royals, 8-4, at Kauffman Stadium, Corey Kluber missed a chance for his 21st win when Melky Cabrera turned a line drive to right field into a two-run, game-tying single in the fourth inning. As it turned out a lot of other stuff went wrong after that, but the play set a definite tone to the evening.
Catcher Yan Gomes left the game with a bloody right thumb in the third inning after hitting Alex Gordon’s bat while attempting to throw a runner out at second. Roberto Perez replaced him.
X-rays on Gomes’ thumb were negative. He needed two stitches to close a cut on the thumb after hitting the top of Gordon’s bat.
“I was very worried,” said Gomes. “I looked at my hand. I grabbed my stuff and said, ‘I think this is broken. Good thing it wasn’t.'”
Left-hander Andrew Miller, solid since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 3, started the sixth in relief of Kluber and allowed four runs on five hits in just two outs. The five hits, including a three-run homer by Adalberto Mondesi, were the most Miller (2-4) has allowed in an appearance since 2011 in a start for Boston.
Cody Allen started the seventh after lasting just one-third of an inning in Friday’s 14-6 win. On Friday, Allen struck out the first man he faced in the ninth before allowing two singles and two walks to end his night. All four of those runs scored when Adam Plutko relieved and gave up a grand slam.
Manager Terry Francona said he wanted to pitch Allen in consecutive games before the season ended on Sunday. On Saturday, the first three men Allen faced all reached base on hits as Brian Goodwin scored on a single by Alcides Escobar.
In his last two appearances, Allen has allowed six runs on seven hits in two-thirds of an inning. That is not exactly the ideal way for a late-inning reliever to prepare for the postseason, but this has been far from an ideal year for Allen.
On the plus side, Jose Ramirez finally opened his eyes from six weeks of slumber. Ramirez had three hits, including his 39th homer. It was just his second three-hit game in September and his third homer since Aug. 14.
Regarding Gomes, Francona said, “I think we dodged a bullet. When it first happened, it was bleeding like crazy. He got a couple of stitches, but it’s just a contusion. The doctors feel, after they get the swelling out of there, he could play with the stitches, but they think they could have them out by Tuesday or Wednesday.
“I’m sure he’s going to be sore for a few days, but he’s going to be OK.”
Kluber (20-7, 2.79) allowed three runs on seven hits in five innings. He finished the season with 215 innings and 222 strikeouts.
Edwin Encarnacion gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the first with a sacrifice fly off Jakob Junis (9-12, 4.42) for his 107th RBI of the season. The Royals tied the score at in the second on a single by Meibrys Viloria, but singles by Yonder Alonso and Cabrera put the Tribe back in front, 3-1, in the third.
Merrifield, with two out and two on in the fourth, sent his liner to right field. Cabrera broke in, slammed on the brakes and tried to retreat, but the ball got over his head as both runs scored to make it 3-3. Kluber, scheduled to throw 80 pitches, worked the fifth before Miller took over.
The Indians have been playing baseball in their own version of limbo since they clinched the AL Central on Sept. 15. Getting players rested and prepared for the postseason has taken precedence over wins and losses and it has not been the best brand of baseball to watch.
That ends after Sunday as a date with the Houston in the ALDS draws a day closer.
“I think everybody is at the point where they’re kind of champing at the bit,” said Francona. “We’re trying to be patient, but everybody wants to get going.
“I understand that. I think everyone is a little edgy to get going.”
What it means
Kluber has pitched more than 200 innings and struck out more than 222 batters in each of the last five years. In doing so, he’s never had an ERA over 3.49.
Kluber threw 80 pitches, 59 (74 percent) for strikes. Junis threw 104 pitches, 68 (65 percent) for strikes.
Thanks for coming
The Indians and Royals drew 23,324 to Kauffman Stadium. First pitch was at 7:15 p.m. with a temperature of 72 degrees.
The Indians and Royals finish the regular season on Sunday at 3:15 p.m. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
Carlos Carrasco (16-10, 3.42) will face the Royals and lefty Erik Skoglund (1-5, 5.40). Carrasco is expected to throw about 80 pitches before being relieved by Trevor Bauer as both starters get in their final innings before the start of ALDS on Friday against the Astros.