CLEVELAND (AP) — Royals manager Ned Yost refuses to allow his players to feel sorry for themselves. Not with Kansas City still in the thick of the playoff race.
Alex Gordon flied out with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning Monday night, allowing the Cleveland Indians to escape with a 4-3 victory over the Royals in a battle of American League wild-card contenders.
Kansas City fell four games behind Tampa Bay, which holds the second wild-card spot, while allowing the Indians to move within 1½ games of the Rays.
“This ain’t no time to feel snakebit,” Yost said. “It was a good game and we battled to the end. Tough loss, though. This was a tough loss. We just couldn’t get it done.”
The Royals lost for the sixth time in seven games this season at Progressive Field, all of them by three or fewer runs, but made things interesting in the final two innings.
Gordon crushed a two-run homer off Cleveland reliever Cody Allen in the eighth, reducing Kansas City’s deficit to 4-3. It was the All-Star left fielder’s 100th career home run.
“I didn’t even realize that was No. 100, so that’s one good thing, I guess,” Gordon said. “We just didn’t muster anything offensively until it was too late. This was a tough one, especially coming against a team that’s right in it with us.”
Salvador Perez singled and Mike Moustakas walked to open the ninth against Indians closer Chris Perez. After a sacrifice bunt by David Lough, Yost pinch hit Carlos Pena, who struck out on a full count.
Pinch hitter George Kottaras followed with a walk to load the bases, bringing Gordon back to the plate, but Perez forced him into flying out to center fielder Michael Bourn on his 27th pitch of the inning.
“I liked the matchups with Pena, Kottaras and Alex, but we just couldn’t get the job done,” Yost said.
Gordon, who went 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs, also liked the fastballs he saw from Perez.
“I had my chances,” he said, shaking his head. “I had a couple of pitches to hit, but couldn’t come through.”
Royals right-hander Ervin Santana (8-8) allowed only four hits in seven strong innings, but three wound up in the stands. He gave up solo homers to Asdrubal Cabrera in the second, Yan Gomes in the fifth, and Carlos Santana in the seventh.
Cleveland’s other run scored on a throwing error by Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer in the third.
“I only made one bad pitch to Cabrera,” said Santana, who struck out seven and did not issue a walk. “The other two home runs were good pitches, but they got a hold of them. We had a couple of opportunities tonight, but didn’t get it done. We’ll have to come back and get them tomorrow.”
Indians right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (11-9) was dominant throughout his seven-inning start, striking out 10 without allowing an earned run or walk.
The Royals’ lone run off Jimenez came in the sixth and cut Cleveland’s lead to 3-1. Gordon singled and advanced to second on a throwing error by third baseman Jose Ramirez, then scored on Hosmer’s RBI single up the middle.
The Indians used three relievers in the eighth before calling upon Perez to start the ninth. Despite allowing three baserunners, he earned his 23rd save.
“You try to be one run better,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “Tonight, I feel like we were a tenth of a run better. I think everybody knows what’s going on here. It’s nerve-racking. It’s a lot of things, but it’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Kansas City is 24-18 in its ongoing stretch of 44 games in 44 days, which began July 30 in Minnesota and ends Wednesday in Cleveland.
Carlos Santana’s leadoff homer in the seventh was initially called foul by first base umpire Dana DeMuth, but was overturned by a replay review.
Ervin Santana lost for the first time in three starts against the Indians this season, falling to 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA over 21 innings.
NOTES: Yost plans to continue alternating starts between OFs Lorenzo Cain, Dyson and Lough. Cain and Dyson were both in the lineup, while Lough pinch hit in the ninth inning. … Royals 2B Emilio Bonifacio went 0 for 4, but is batting .301 (28-for-93) since being acquired from Toronto on Aug. 14. … Royals DH Billy Butler had his seven-game hitting streak snapped. … Royals RHP Greg Holland has saved 40 games, making him the fourth Kansas City reliever to reach the milestone. … Royals 3B Jamey Carroll needs one hit to reach 1,000 in his career. … The attendance was just 9,794 at Progressive Field, along with several hundred dogs as part of a promotion. … Royals RHP Jeremy Guthrie (13-10) faces Indians RHP Zach McAllister (7-8) in the second game of the three-game series Tuesday.
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