KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — In a battle of bullpens, fate favored the guys with all the blown saves.
Cleveland’s Luis Vizcaino, Matt Herges and Rafael Betancourt kept Kansas City at bay Thursday after Royals ace Zack Greinke departed with a one-run lead. Victor Martinez had three RBIs and the Indians pulled away for an 8-3 victory.
“We faced a pitcher who’s at the top of his game every time out and we wore him out, I think,” said Cleveland starter Carl Pavano (4-4), who matched his more celebrated opponent nearly pitch for pitch. “It looked like he was kind of laboring and we got him out of there and were able to get to the bullpen.”
Greinke’s record stayed at 7-1 with his first no-decision in nine starts. He went six innings, gave up a season-high eight hits and left with a 3-2 edge. His major league-leading ERA crept up to 0.82 from 0.60.
The Indians tied it 2-all with two run in the third and loaded the bases before Greinke escaped by striking out Mark DeRosa and Ben Francisco.
“I just wasn’t real crisp. It was really stupid pitching for that whole inning probably,” Greinke said. “I started throwing two-seamers to get ground balls and it’s not really how I pitch. I got behind on everyone because I was throwing the two-seamer. It was just stupid, really stupid.”
Asdrubal Cabrera had four hits and two RBIs as Cleveland beat the same opponent two times in a row for the first time this season. It was the first time they beat the same team two straight.
Pavano went six innings, giving up three runs and six hits while striking out eight.
“We made (Greinke) work hard and they made Carl work hard,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said.
Coming in, the Cleveland bullpen was a mess, with nine blown saves in 17 opportunities. Closer Kerry Wood, after working the past two nights, was not available.
“It was left up to the bullpen and our guys really stepped up. It should be a big boost for them,” said Wedge.
Betancourt came in with the bases loaded and none out in the ninth and got a popup and a double-play grounder for his first save in three chances.
Shin-Soo Choo had three hits and two RBIs. He said he thought Greinke’s fastball was better than the last time he faced him.
“It was still 96-97 (mph) but everything was moving,” he said. “There was no straight fastball today.”
Greinke handed a 3-2 lead to Horacio Ramirez (0-2) starting the seventh and the left-hander immediately got in trouble, giving up an RBI single to Choo and a run-scoring double to Jhonny Peralta.
In their last six innings, Royals relievers who were expected to be a strength this year have allowed 10 runs on 14 hits and three walks.
“You can have all the good arms you want, but if you don’t locate and command pitches you’re not going to get quality major league hitters out,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
The Indians added four off Juan Cruz in the eighth on back-to-back RBI doubles by Cabrera and Luis Valbuena and a two-run double by Martinez.
Martinez went 2-for-5 and kept his major league-leading average at .400.
Billy Butler’s RBI double and Jose Guillen’s run-scoring single staked Greinke to a 2-0 lead in the first. Grady Sizemore ended an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the Indians third and Martinez and Choo followed with RBI singles.
Notes: Going back to last Sept. 2, Greinke has not allowed a home run in 94 innings. One of only two pitchers since the early 1900s to post at least seven wins with an ERA of 0.60 or less, Greinke has allowed six earned runs in 66 innings. … The 16 hits were the most the Royals have allowed this year. … The Indians begin interleague play this weekend at Cincinnati while the Royals travel across the state to meet the St. Louis Cardinals. … Indians CF Ben Francisco made an outstanding diving catch on Alberto Callaspo’s sinking liner leading off the fifth. … 2B Valbuena had gone 24 games at shortstop without committing his first major league error until he misplayed Mike Aviles’ grounder in the seventh.