Pavano improves, but Indians fall in KC
Game close until eighth, when Buck hits second homer
KANSAS CITY -- Carl Pavano wasn't about to settle for some sort of moral victory.
Sure, his six-inning, eight-strikeout effort against the Royals on Tuesday was a big improvement on a dismal opening performance at Texas. But the bottom line was that Pavano and the Indians lost again, falling, 9-3, to a Kansas City club that was ignited by backup catcher John Buck's two-homer, five-RBI performance.
With the Indians off to a struggling start, Pavano wanted to pick up his mates in a big way. Instead, Pavano pointed to the pivotal fifth inning, when he was unable to deliver a shutdown inning just after his teammates had rallied to a 2-2 tie.
Pavano wanted to execute a clean fifth inning, get his club back in the dugout quickly and allow the momentum from Cleveland's two-run rally to build. But before the Tribe, could say "tie game," Buck led off the Kansas City fifth with a towering homer to left-center and the Royals had the lead for good.
"It was a loss, so I didn't do my job," Pavano said. "They gave me two runs and we tied it up. As a starting pitcher, that's when you've got to bear down. When a team comes back like that, the next inning is big."
Pavano's problem in the fifth didn't end with Buck's homer that gave the Royals a 3-2 lead. A two-out double by Mike Aviles and an RBI single by David DeJesus made a winner of Kansas City starter Kyle Davies.
The Indians got within 4-3, but bullpen woes in the eighth began with Rafael Perez and ended with Vinnie Chulk, who surrendered a grand slam to Buck and kept Kansas City closer Joakim Soria from having to work the ninth. That means Soria will be fresh for Wednesday's series finale.
The Indians dropped to 1-7 overall and 0-5 on the road. In the big picture, the Indians have reason to feel a lot better about Pavano after he allowed eight hits and four runs in his six innings. But what Cleveland really wants right now is to avoid digging a deep April hole, and Pavano felt he could have done more to help in that regard.
"I know the name of the game," Pavano said. "I understand what puts momentum in our corner and what doesn't. When we tied the game, I've got to go out there and shut them down."
Pavano said the tie-breaking homer by Buck came at a point when he really wanted to challenge the hitter. No time for a leadoff walk.
"I just left a pitch over the plate and he put a good swing on it," Pavano said. "I was trying to be as aggressive as I could be. I take this one hard."
Indians manager Eric Wedge wasn't nearly as hard on Pavano as Pavano was on himself.
"Carl was a lot better today," Wedge said. "I was glad to see him go out there, run through that first and gain a little momentum. He had more on the baseball today. He dropped his slider in there, used his changeup. He was using both sides of the plate with his fastball and leveraged the ball better."
While Pavano made strides, the same couldn't be said for Perez. He was charged with four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings.
"He's a very important guy to us and we have to get him back on track," Wedge said.
With the Indians falling six games under .500 before tax deadline day, Wedge said an incremental approach is what Cleveland needs to get on track and stay on track.
"We've got to come to the ballpark expecting good things to happen," Wedge said. "This is where you have to draw on your toughness. This is where you've got to be there for each other. The energy is good, the effort is good. You just have to fight through it."
With Pavano showing improvement and the offense getting 10 hits for the second straight game, Wedge can see some positive signs. But right now, the Indians aren't doing enough things consistently well to ring up the wins.
"I feel like we're getting closer to being where we need to be," Wedge said. "But we still have to do a better job of making plays and making pitches."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.