CLEVELAND -- The Indians had Jonathan Broxton on the ropes.
The Kansas City closer was struggling to throw strikes in the ninth inning Wednesday afternoon, and the Tribe loaded the bases with only one out against him.
Jose Lopez stepped to the plate representing the potential winning run.
"I was trying to catch a first-pitch fastball," Lopez said. "I know he throws a lot of first-pitch fastballs."
Sure enough, Broxton did go with the fastball, but the pitch was high. Lopez swung anyway, and grounded into a game-ending double play as the Indians fell, 6-3, in the series finale at Progressive Field.
Cleveland (27-23) has dropped five out of six since sweeping Detroit last week.
"Jose was trying to ambush them there on the first pitch and win it," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "It was just a poor swing. The ball ate him up."
"I was missing by a good bit," said Broxton, who earned his 11th save. "It wasn't even close, and luckily he swung at it right there."
Lopez was hitting fourth in the order as the Indians continued to play without designated hitter Travis Hafner (right knee) and catcher Carlos Santana (concussion). Hafner was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to the game, and there is no timetable for Santana's return.
The offense fared well initially without its sluggers, but for the second day in a row, the Tribe failed to score after the second inning.
Cleveland jumped on top of Kansas City with three runs in the second. Shelley Duncan and Michael Brantley started the inning with back-to-back singles, and they advanced to second and third because of aggressive baserunning by Duncan.
Casey Kotchman knocked Duncan in with a blooper to right field that fell in front of a diving Jeff Francoeur. Luke Carlin plated Brantley with a fielder's choice, and then after Carlin stole second, Shin-Soo Choo made it 3-0 with an RBI single.
"It's something that we preach," Acta said of the aggressiveness, "but you have to have the right guys on base to do it. It's nice that Shelley was able to put pressure on the defense there. That was a big inning."
But the big inning was rendered irrelevant when starter Jeanmar Gomez couldn't hold the lead. The Royals got two runs in each of the next two frames against Gomez, and they added an insurance run in the fifth. All five runs came with two outs, and the last three came with two out and none on base.
"Some people said that's one of the times when a pitcher is vulnerable," Acta said. "We have attacked that a lot these last couple of years with some of our guys. I actually have described it as a shark smelling blood in the water. 'When you have two outs and nobody on, this is it right here. I've got to eat up this guy and get out of here.'"
Gomez, who dropped to 3-4 with the loss, didn't have much of an explanation for his two-out struggles. The right-hander allowed five runs on 10 hits, with one walk and three strikeouts.
"I don't know," he said. "I felt good today. I got two outs quickly, but I was unable to get the third one. I made quality pitches, and they hit them."
Without Hafner and Santana in the lineup, the Indians wasted a couple of key opportunities against Royals starter Bruce Chen. The Tribe failed to score after loading the bases in the third and putting runners on first and third in the fifth.
Cleveland scored only three runs in the final 17 innings of the series.
"It really hurts," Acta said of playing without Hafner and Santana. "But, hey, we just can't throw our arms up. We have to move on and get with it. Somebody needs to step up."
As much as the Indians' offense struggled in key situations, their starting pitching hasn't done much to help out. In the last six games, starters have allowed 37 earned runs in 28 innings, giving the unit a combined ERA of 11.89 during that stretch.
The Indians are off Thursday before beginning a three-game set with the Twins at home on Friday.
"The day off comes at a perfect time," Acta said. "We all need to go home, step back, and come back Friday and play better baseball."
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.