CLEVELAND -- It might be too early to ask the Indians' hitters to close their eyes and click their heels, but someone might want to remind the ballclub that there is no place like home. So far this season, Progressive Field has not been kind to the local nine.
On Thursday afternoon the Tribe's woes in front of its home audience continued in the form of a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Royals. The offense fired on all cylinders during a recent road trip, but the team's engine has backfired upon returning to chilly Cuyahoga County.
"It's coincidence," manager Manny Acta said. "We love playing here. We scored enough runs last year here. We played well last year here. It's four bases and a mound wherever you go. No one is going to bring up the lake, the weather or anything like that. We just haven't been able to swing the bat well."
Thanks in part to an abbreviated outing by starter Josh Tomlin but mostly due to a lack of clutch hitting, the Indians (9-8) dropped the finale for a series loss. The Royals (5-14), meanwhile, snapped their 12-game losing streak by winning the final two of this three-game set. Consider it payback for helping send Kansas City on its way to that long skid.
"To take two out of three against a Central Division opponent on the road, that's big for us," Royals left fielder Alex Gordon said. "Hopefully, we can continue this."
During their recent nine-game swing through Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland, the Indians went 7-2 and hit .286 as a team, with 54 runs scored and a .309 average with runners in scoring position. That showing began with a three-game sweep of the Royals from April 13-15 at Kauffman Stadium.
"It's our second homestand," third baseman Jack Hannahan said. "We don't feel any different playing at home or on the road. It's just baseball. I'm sure we're going to play a lot better at home. Home is where you've got to take care of your business. You get home-field advantage for a reason.
"We're going to start playing a lot better at home -- there's no doubt about that."
Cleveland's offense -- which has averaged six runs per game on the road compared with 3.5 at home this season -- finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine in Thursday's loss. In the sixth inning, the Indians loaded the bases with no outs and came away with only one run, on a sacrifice fly by Travis Hafner.
The Tribe's only other breakthrough came in the third inning, when first baseman Jose Lopez singled off Royals right-hander Luis Mendoza (1-2) and later scored on a base hit by right fielder Aaron Cunningham.
Mendoza was charged with two runs over five-plus innings, which was sufficient in helping Kansas City claim the win.
"The last four games, we have struggled to score some runs," Acta said. "Today we continued to scuffle at the plate a little bit. We hit some balls hard, but they played some good defense."
Kansas City wasted little time, plating a run against Tomlin in the first inning. The right-hander allowed a leadoff double to Yuniesky Betancourt before loading the bases and surrendering a run-scoring double-play groundout to Eric Hosmer.
Tomlin settled down until running into more trouble in the fifth. With one out, he yielded consecutive singles to Gordon and Billy Butler, then gave up back-to-back base hits to Jeff Francoeur and Mike Moustakas with two outs. Tomlin exited at that point with 87 pitches thrown through 4 2/3 innings, and he was charged with a fourth earned run when Brayan Pena delivered an RBI single off reliever Dan Wheeler.
It marked only the second time in 41 career starts that Tomlin (1-2) was unable to log at least five innings for the Indians. In his previous outing, on April 19, the right-hander limited Oakland to one run in an impressive eight-inning road performance.
"The consistency is not there, for sure, this year," Tomlin said. "You can't go out there and go eight innings and then go four innings or vice versa. You want to stay as consistent as you can for as long as you can. Unfortunately, that didn't happen today."
As for the problems at home, Tomlin agrees that the Tribe will eventually turn things around.
"I think that's just a fluke," he said. "I don't think it has anything to do with coming back home or anything like that. I think it's just kind of how things are going right now. It's just kind of a fluke. I think we'll play better here, for sure."