CLEVELAND – The Kansas City Royals are starting to slide back to a place they know all too well — the bottom of the AL Central.
Giving up five home runs, the Royals lost their fourth straight and seventh in nine games on Tuesday night, 9-4 to the Cleveland Indians, who won their eighth in a row at home and are showing signs of being more than an early season fluke.
Justin Masterson won his fifth straight start, a stunning personal turnaround from last season, Jack Hannahan homered twice and Shin-Soo Choo hit a three-run shot as the Indians snapped a three-game losing streak and opened a 2½-game lead over the Royals.
"It hasn't affected our confidence," DH Billy Butler said. "Look what we did, we had a chance to win the game, even though we were down. We have to battle through it. That's all we can do. You go through it during the season and keep coming to the park ready to win."
There were some positives for the Royals.
Melky Cabrera homered and Alex Gordon extended his hitting streak to 19 games, the AL's longest this season. The Royals had their chances, but down 4-3 in the eighth, they couldn't come up with a big hit despite having the bases loaded and nobody out.
"I had an opportunity in the eighth and didn't get it done," said Butler, who popped to short for the first out in the eighth. "When you have chances like that, you have to capitalize."
Masterson (5-0) allowed three runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings. A year ago, the right-hander started 0-5, lost 11 straight games over two seasons and went winless over a stretch of 17 starts — a club record of futility.
He's a different pitcher in 2011. The Indians are a different team.
Hannahan hit solo shots in the third and fifth off Luke Hochevar (2-3), and Choo connected in the seventh on reliever Louis Coleman's first pitch to make it 7-3.
Hochevar allowed six runs and 11 hits in 6 1-3 innings. He was most upset with giving up three homers.
"They took a lot of good swings on everything," Hochevar said. "I made three mistakes and paid for those. They were on a lot of stuff. All of them were up and over the plate. There's nothing else I can say about that."
The Royals have given up 13 homers in their four-game slide.
Grady Sizemore went 3 for 4 and hit a two-run homer in the eighth for the Indians, who are 14-8 for the first time since 2007, when they won 96.
Masterson's reversal has been one of the keys to the Indians' quick start. He finished strong in 2010, and has carried it over into this season. Of his five wins, four have come following a Cleveland loss and he's gone at least six innings in each start.
He was pulled in the seventh with the Indians up only 4-3 and the tying run at second.
Reliever Tony Sipp came on and struck out Chris Getz, but the left-hander loaded the bases with none out in the eighth. Manager Manny Acta brought in Vinnie Pestano, who worked out of the mess by getting Butler and Ka'aihue to pop up and striking Jeff Francoeur.
The Royals got within 9-4 in the ninth, and had two runners with two outs but Choo made a diving catch to rob Gordon and end it.
"It kind of goes like that," manager Ned Yost said, "You have to battle through it."
Notes: George Brett holds the club record hitting streak, 30 straight in 1980. ... Francoeur has hit safely in 15 straight, one shy of his career high. ... Melky Cabrera has hit safely in 16 of 19 games. ... The Royals had two steals, making Indians opponents 14 for 14 in steal attempts.