CLEVELAND - Before the Indians hit the road, centre fielder Michael Bourn talked about some trouble at home.
Following a 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday, Bourn addressed the disappointing crowds the Indians drew for the three-game series and the team's lagging attendance all season.
"We would like to be supported a little bit more, if we could," Bourn said. "We're in the hunt for the second wild card. It's been a long time since there's been a team in the wild-card race here."
The Indians drew just 34,494 fans for the three-game set. There were 9,794 at the opener on Monday, the smallest September crowd at Progressive Field, which opened in 1994. Also, Cleveland is averaging 19,536 fans per home game. Only Houston and Tampa Bay have smaller crowds in the AL.
Bourn, who signed with the Indians as a free agent in March after he was an All-Star in Atlanta, said the Indians could use some help as they work toward a possible post-season appearance.
"The extra man in the stands is a good push to have, it gets your blood flowing a little bit," Bourn said. "We do try to give them a good show every time they come out, even though the last few games have been kind of disappointing to us. We're still going to play hard all the time, but you want that atmosphere to be rocking here like they had in the '90s. They were the team back then."
In dropping the series finale, the Indians failed to gain ground in the crowded AL playoff chase. The Indians began the day 1 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot and for the second straight day, Cleveland gave up a game to the Royals.
"Every loss is frustrating at this point, but we still think we're playing pretty well," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "We obviously would have liked to win this series. As long as we keep going out there and give a good effort and win some games, I think we'll like where we are at the end."
The Indians finished their homestand 5-4, but more was expected after they took two of three from Baltimore and the New York Mets. There are only 17 games left in Cleveland's regular season, but don't expect the Indians to be counting.
"You look at the next one," Kipnis said. "There's no reason to look down the road right now. The next one's the most important one."
The Indians open a seven-game trip in Chicago on Thursday. Cleveland plays four games against the White Sox and three in Minnesota before starting its last homestand on Sept. 19.
A short outing by Scott Kazmir — and a dominant one by Kansas City's James Shields — led to Cleveland's latest loss. Kazmir put the Indians in an immediate hole when he gave up a home run to Alex Gordon on the game's first pitch, which sparked a three-run first inning.
The Indians didn't do themselves any favours in the field, either. Two throwing errors by Tribe pitchers — one each from Kazmir and Rich Hill — led to two runs.
Kazmir (8-8) lasted only four innings, giving up four runs (three earned) while striking out four and walking none.
Shields (11-9) bounced back from a bad start Sept. 6 against Detroit — where he surrendered 10 runs — to stifle the Indians' offence. He held the Indians to just two runs on four hits, striking out seven and walking one in eight innings.
Shields improved to 2-5 in 13 career starts against Cleveland. He had no-decisions in his first three starts against the Indians this season, allowing nine earned runs in 16 1-3 innings.
After the first inning, Shields pitched like the ace the Royals envisioned he would be when they acquired him from the Rays for outfielder Wil Myers, one of baseball's top prospects. The right-hander leads the AL with 207 2-3 innings pitched.
Shields' biggest problem came with his own defence, when he made two errors in the third. He dropped a throw at first base, allowing Kipnis to reach safely. He then threw wildly to first trying to pick off Kipnis, but retired Carlos Santana to end the inning.
The Indians would answer back with both of their runs in the bottom of the first. Bourn led off with a single and advanced to second after Mike Aviles was hit by a pitch. Kipnis' groundout moved both runners up, Carlos Santana popped out to third and Michael Brantley delivered with a two-out, two-RBI single.
After that, the Indians went 0 for 23 with a walk before Kipnis led off the ninth with a single against Shields. Santana followed with a blooping single to left, chasing Shields.
Closer Greg Holland came on and struck out the for his 42nd save.
"They are a good offensive team. But we're facing a lot of teams now that are stacked," Kazmir said. "That's no excuse. We still need to get the job done."
NOTES: Indians 1B Nick Swisher wasn't in the lineup against Shields. He is batting .167 (8 for 48) with 15 strikeouts against the right-hander, including three hits in his last 25 at-bats. ... SS Asdrubal Cabrera, in a 3-for-27 slump, was also out of the lineup. He pinch-hit in the ninth and struck out. ... Indians RHP Corey Kluber (8-5) faces LHP John Danks (4-12) in the series opener against the White Sox.
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