KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ubaldo Jimenez and the Cleveland Indians are in a tailspin as the season winds down.
Jimenez was knocked out in the fifth inning Saturday night and the last-place Indians went on to a 5-3 loss at the Kansas City Royals.
Cord Phelps hit a two-run homer for Cleveland, which has dropped 11 of 14. The Indians have the worst record in the American League since the All-Star break at 18-49.
Jimenez (9-17) was charged with five runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings. The right-hander struck out three and walked three while dropping to 0-6 with a 6.49 ERA in his past eight starts.
Jimenez leads the majors in losses and his 95 walks are second in the AL. The Indians’ starters own a major league-worst 6.36 ERA since the All-Star break.
“Walks kill,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “They killed us today. (Jimenez) had to battle hard with his command and work out of jams. He had to throw 95 pitches in 4 1-3 innings. Walks pretty much did it for him. We got back into the game. He ended up walking those two guys and they scored. He’s had a rough season. With the offense we’re getting it’s hard for us to give up five runs.”
Billy Butler hit a run-scoring single in the first inning to reach 100 RBIs for the first time, helping Kansas City improve to 9-5 against Cleveland this season.
Butler also doubled twice in his 53rd multihit game, raising his batting average to .312. He became the first Royals player to drive in at least 100 runs since Carlos Beltran had 100 RBIs in 2003.
Alcides Escobar doubled in Jarrod Dyson, then scored on Butler’s base hit to give Kansas City a 2-0 lead in the first.
Royals rookie Will Smith (6-8) allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings to improve to 2-4 with a 4.54 ERA in his last six starts.
Kansas City scored three times in the fifth to grab a 5-2 lead while chasing Jimenez. Cleveland used three pitchers in the inning, which included two walks, two singles, a sacrifice fly, an error and a caught stealing.
Alex Gordon scampered home on Eric Hosmer’s fielder’s choice grounder, putting the Royals in front again. Brayan Pena had a sacrifice fly, and Irving Falu singled in Jeff Francoeur with the final run.
“I was falling behind in the count and then I have to go right in the middle of the plate and they take advantage,” Jimenez said. “It’s been a tough year.”
The Indians scored an unearned run in the eighth after center fielder Jason Bourgeois committed an error.
Rookie Kelvin Herrera worked the ninth for his second save in three opportunities. Francoeur cut down Shin-Soo Choo trying to stretch a single in the ninth for his 19th assist, which leads all major league outfielders.
“You have to be 100 percent,” Acta said. “With a guy like Francoeur, that’s not a very good idea. It would have allowed the tying run to get to the plate. He was being aggressive. It was not a good time to do it.”
Choo finished with two hits and two walks.
NOTES: RHP Jake Odorizzi will start Sunday against the Indians in the most heralded debut by a Royals pitching prospect since RHP Zack Greinke in 2004. Odorizzi, 22, went 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA in the minors this season. He was acquired from Milwaukee in the 2010 trade that sent Greinke to the Brewers. “I’m excited, but I don’t want to get this thing all hyped up,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We just want him to go out and get it over with if you will. The main objective for me is for him to come in here and get a start, maybe two, so that he’s got that experience going into next season.” The Indians will counter with LHP David Huff. … RHP Roberto Hernandez will throw a simulated game when the Indians are in Chicago. Hernandez has not pitched since Aug. 27 when he injured his right ankle backing up the plate against Oakland. … Hosmer stole his 16th base in the second inning, which ties a Royals record by a first baseman. Jeff King had 16 stolen bases in 1997.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.