CLEVELAND -- It was one of those nights for the Indians. One of those nights where a ground ball could ease its way between All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and second baseman Jason Kipnis, rolling into the outfield grass while the infielders stood idly staring at one another.
It was the kind of night where that type of mental lapse would come right before a game-changing blow. The type of evening where the Indians tripped themselves up as often as the Royals delivered punches, leading to an 8-2 loss on Wednesday that felt even more lopsided than the box score indicated.
"We just didn't take care of the ball very well," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
The end result was only the third loss in an 11-game stretch for the Indians (9-7), but the first victory in 13 games for the laboring Royals (4-14). Cleveland's struggles, which began with Ubaldo Jimenez's six-inning showing and ended with Jairo Asencio's woes in the ninth inning, helped halt Kansas City's 12-game losing streak.
The Tribe experienced a combination of miscues that culminated in a loss.
Carlos Santana made an ill-advised attempt to stretch a single into a double in the first inning and was thrown out at second base. Jimenez continued his search for the strike zone, registering 64 strikes over 113 pitches in his third uninspiring effort in a row. Then there was Cleveland's lineup, which was overmatched by Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar.
Acta was not in the mood to sugarcoat any of the mistakes.
"We're not going to be hitting people around every night," Acta said. "In order for you to win some of those games like tonight, you're going to have to take care of your 27 outs better. You just can't be giving outs away, because we don't have five or six guys hot right now in our lineup."
It was a slow roller in the fifth inning that served as a summation of the Tribe's evening.
With one out and Kansas City holding a 2-0 lead, Alex Gordon pulled a pitch from Jimenez (2-1) to the right side of second base. With a pull shift on, the grounder skipped toward Cabrera and Kipnis, who both ran toward the ball before slowing and stopping. As they each waited to see the other go after the ball, it rolled into shallow right-center field for a single.
Asked who should have fielded the ball, Acta did not hesitate.
"Somebody," Acta said. "It probably looked like Jason was closer to the ball, but that's not what we preach around here. What we preach around here is you collide going after a ball. You don't look at each other. We've been saying that for three years here. We have ice. We have a training staff here. We don't look at each other and let a ball drop. Unfortunately, that cost us."
Eric Hosmer made the Indians pay for that gaffe by slicing the first pitch he received from Jimenez over the 19-foot wall in left field for a two-run, two-out blast that pushed the Royals ahead, 4-0. Cleveland clawed back with one run each in the sixth and seventh innings, but faced a two-run deficit rather than a tie game.
"It's communication and awareness," Acta said. "We have to be aware of where the other guys are playing."
Hochevar (2-1), who allowed seven runs on nine hits in a four-inning loss to the Indians on April 13, held Cleveland to two runs on four hits over 6 1/3 innings this time around. The right-hander used a sharp breaking ball and cutter against the Tribe, who ended the evening with just a 1-for-7 showing with runners in scoring position.
"That was a huge start by Hoch to be able to get us into the seventh inning with the lead against a club that whacked him around last time he faced them," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "That was a pretty darn good effort."
Between the first and sixth innings, Hochevar enjoyed a stretch where he allowed just one hit over a span of 15 batters.
"He did a good job commanding the zone and then expanding it," said Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman, who is mired in an 0-for-22 dry spell at the plate. "He did well. Well enough for their team to win tonight. He was able to get outs. I guess that's it, plain and simple. He got outs. He made an adjustment and we weren't able to score enough runs."
Jimenez finished with three walks and two strikeouts in another inconsistent performance, but the right-hander pitched admirably despite his persistent command issues. Hosmer's blast, along with a two-run home run from Billy Butler in the first inning, accounted for all the damage done against Jimenez in his time on the hill.
"Those two pitches killed me," Jimenez said.
The Royals then finished off the Indians in the ninth.
Trailing 4-2, Asencio took the hill for the Tribe and yielded a one-out double to Alcides Escobar and then a single to Chris Getz. Gordon and Butler followed with back-to-back home runs to power a four-run outburst that swiftly put Cleveland in an 8-2 hole.
Acta reiterated that the Indians did themselves no favors in the loss.
"We can't be giving outs away," said the manager.