KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' rotation isn't turning too smoothly these days.
Luis Mendoza was the latest Kansas City starter to encounter some rough bumps, as he gave up nine runs in the Cleveland Indians' 13-7 victory on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The 21,182 fans witnessed the completion of the Tribe's three-game sweep that extended the Royals' skid to four games.
"The first time around the rotation, we were the best in baseball," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "The second time around, we're probably the worst in baseball."
During the first turn of the Royals' five-man rotation, they did indeed lead the Major Leagues with a 1.55 ERA. But during the last four games, the starters' ERA was 10.91.
With the bullpen overtaxed in the first two games of the series, the Royals needed innings from starter Mendoza, so Yost stuck with the right-hander through a six-run Indians third. Four of those runs were unearned, but it was torturous nonetheless.
The inning started innocently enough when, with two out, the Indians' Michael Brantley was called safe at first base on a close play after Chris Getz fielded his grounder brilliantly behind second base. Well, it was more than close in the opinion of Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.
"He was out, a hundred percent," Hosmer said. "I mean, it's a big play for us six runs later. It's a great play by Getzy. It definitely caught everybody off guard, but it's a big break for them, and it hurt us big time."
Getz, from his distant view, wasn't quite so positive.
"I'm pretty sure that would've been a game-changer, because the inning just turned into something big," he said. "I looked at the replay. It looked pretty close. It would've been certainly nice to get that one."
No kidding, because Asdrubal Cabrera singled and Shin-Soo Choo belted a two-run double. After an intentional walk, Hosmer misplayed Shelley Duncan's pop foul for an error. Thus reprieved, Duncan walloped a three-run homer high over the left-field bullpen. Two walks and a Jack Hannahan single later, it was 6-3.
Even if umpire Lance Barrett missed the Brantley call, Yost declared that the Royals just have to overcome it.
"It was tough to tell in live action. It was bang-bang, but if the umpire did miss the call, we still have to pick it up," Yost said. "We still have to find a way. With a runner on first base, we still have to get that final out, and we just couldn't do it."
Things only got worse for Mendoza and the Royals.
Travis Hafner's mammoth home run that opened the Indians' fifth inning broke new ground at the stadium -- and perhaps a glass or dish in the Rivals Sports Bar high above the right-field seats. Hafner's smash was the first to land in the restaurant since it was built during the stadium renovations before the 2009 season. The estimated distance was 456 feet, the 10th longest shot in stadium history. The topper was Bo Jackson's 475-footer in 1986.
"I was able to stay back on an offspeed pitch and backspin it. I think there have been some [homers] before that measured in the 470s, but that's about as good as I can hit 'em," Hafner said.
Mendoza conceded that the curveball that Hafner hammered was a bad choice -- on the 1-1 pitch he should have thrown some heat.
"A curveball, he was expecting that," Mendoza said. "It was a bad pitch. I threw a first-pitch curveball, then a fastball. Then bad selection [with the curve]. I should have come hard in or hard away."
That developed into a four-run inning and Mendoza was gone before he could get an out.
Relievers Jose Mijares and Louis Coleman, just arrived from Triple-A Omaha, also were tapped for runs. In fact, Coleman gave up home runs to Casey Kotchman and Jason Kipnis in the eighth.
Mitch Maier, who came in from center field to pitch a scoreless ninth, was the only Royals pitcher to escape unscathed. It was his second pitching stint, reprising his scoreless inning last season at Boston.
This marked the third straight game in which a Royals starting pitcher had been blitzed for a big inning. On Saturday night, Jonathan Sanchez was clipped for five runs in the third inning. On Friday night, Luke Hochevar was drilled for seven runs in the first inning.
If things weren't bad enough for the rotation, Hochevar is recovering from a bruised ankle and his scheduled start on Wednesday is in question.
"They'll settle down," Yost said. "It's like everything else, it goes in cycles."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.