The rookie relievers that have done such a solid job out of the Kansas City Royals' bullpen were roughed up Monday night by the Cleveland Indians.
Jeremy Jeffress, Aaron Crow and Tim Collins combined to give up five runs as they threw more balls than strikes, walking seven and uncorking two wild pitches in a 7-3 loss in 10 innings.
Jeffress blew a save and committed a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, and Collins (1-1) was tagged with the loss.
"Real bad," Collins said, summing up his inning. "It's always a rough night when you go out and give up four runs. I wasn't making my pitches. I wasn't in the strike zone. When I did get it in the strike zone, they hit it."
Crow inherited a bases-loaded jam from Jeffress in the seventh, but got out of the mess by striking out Shin-Soo Choo and retiring Carlos Santana on a popup.
"We didn't help ourselves, that's for sure," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We really struggled to command the ball, especially out of the 'pen. Leadoff walks in the seventh and the 10th innings hurt us. On a positive note, Kyle Davies pitched great — six strong innings. Aaron Crow came in a big situation with a guy (Choo) that absolutely kills us and got us out of a bases-loaded jam. (Joakim) Soria bounced back really nice and had a real good inning. That was the pluses on the pitching side."
Davies, who had a 9.00 ERA with eight walks in 14 innings in his first three starts, held the Indians to two runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts over six innings.
"My command was a lot better. No walks," Davies said. "I've been working on my command. It was good in spring training. I just had a couple of lapses there in the last three games."
Pinch-hitter Shelley Duncan's RBI double sparked a four-run 10th for Cleveland.
Collins walked Santana leading off the inning 10th and Duncan hooked a two-base hit barely fair into the left-field corner. Grady Sizemore, in his second game back from knee surgery, added an RBI single and was 3 for 5 after going 2 for 4 on Sunday in his first game since May 16, 2010.
Joe Smith (1-0) got the victory with 1 1-3 innings of hitless relief as the surging Indians won their fourth in a row.
Expected by most observers to remain also-rans in the AL Central this year, the Indians and Royals had not been first and second this late in the season in any order since May 31, 1999, when Cleveland led the Royals and White Sox by 10 games en route to a fifth straight division title. That also was the last time the Indians started a season as well as they've started this one, winning 12 of their first 16.
One out after Duncan's double, Michael Brantley walked. Matt LaPorta grounded into a fielder's choice and pinch-runner Adam Everett scored on shortstop Alcides Escobar's throwing error. Jack Hannahan followed with an RBI double and Sizemore made it 7-3 with his third hit.
The Royals scored twice to take a 3-2 lead in the sixth on Melky Cabrera's RBI double and an RBI single by Alex Gordon, who tied his career high with a 12-game hitting streak.
Billy Butler's single made it four straight hits off starter Carlos Carrasco and put runners at first and second. But the right-hander escaped further damage by retiring Kila Ka'aihue on a foul pop and coaxing a double-play grounder out of Jeff Francoeur.
LaPorta hit an RBI single that tied it 3-all in the seventh.
Santana had an RBI double in the first and Cleveland took a 2-1 lead in the third on Choo's sacrifice fly.
Wilson Betemit had a sacrifice fly in the second for the Royals and singled leading off the seventh, tying his career best with a 10-game hitting streak.
NOTES: It was Butler's 25th birthday. ... The two AL Central leaders will play each other seven times in 11 days, including a three-game series next week in Cleveland. ... Carrasco's first major league win was against the Royals last Sept. 17. He pitched 6 1-3 innings and gave up three runs on seven hits. ... Gordon also had a 12-game hitting streak in 2008. ... The Royals failed to score in the eighth despite two Cleveland errors.