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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians waited more than three weeks to gain a little ground on the Royals. They gave it right back in a few hours.
Cleveland wasted an early chance to get to Kansas City starter Danny Duffy and the Indians failed to move any closer in the AL wild-card race with a 2-0 loss to the Royals on Monday night.
After finishing off the Royals for a 4-3 win in 10 innings of a game suspended on Aug. 31, the Indians were shut out and now their season has been pushed to the brink.
"There's not a lot of season left," manager Terry Francona said.
Duffy (9-11) pitched six shutout innings for his first win in more than a month as the Royals, trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1985, closed within one game of first-place Detroit in the AL Central. Kansas City also maintained its 3½-game lead over Cleveland for one of the two wild card spots.
With only five games left, the Indians are in serious trouble.
"Any loss from here on out is going to make it more difficult because it just puts us in a situation where we really need help from other people," second baseman Mike Aviles said. "We need to Seattle to lose. We need the Royals to lose, the Tigers to lose. We need everybody to pretty much lose."
But if the Indians don't win, it won't matter.
Carlos Carrasco (8-6) did his part by pitching 7 1-3 strong innings, but the Indians couldn't keep the momentum going after winning the suspended game.
"It's not very often you don't score and come away with a split," Francona cracked.
The Royals jumped on Carrasco for a run in the first on Eric Hosmer's two-out RBI single.
But when Cleveland's first three hitters reached in the first, the Indians, whose offense has been wildly inconsistent all season, had a chance to do some damage. Duffy, though, got cleanup hitter Carlos Santana to pop up the first pitch. He then struck out Yan Gomes looking and retired Mike Aviles on a lazy fly to right.
"You have a guy with bases loaded and we've got him on the ropes and he hasn't pitched in a while," Aviles said of Duffy, who had been sidelined since Sept. 6 with a sore shoulder. "If we could get some runs quick, maybe we could rattle his cage a little bit. But we weren't able to do it and he settled in."
With their win in the suspended game, the Indians have 82 wins, guaranteeing them consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2000-01.
Francona isn't taking any gratification in back-to-back successful seasons.
"Not yet," he said. "We've got to win tomorrow. We're so locked into trying to win. We can summarize when it's time, but right now we've got to find a way to win."
There's no choice, really.
"The bottom line is we have to take care of what we can, and right now we need to start winning some games and figure out how to win games because that's the only way we're going to get in," Aviles said. "We can't be here wishing, 'Hey, we hope they lose.' We have to take care of our end at the same time."
SO SMOOTH OPERATOR
OF Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a first-inning single. He's batting .442 (23 for 52) during the streak. Brantley, who has also hit in 25 of his last 26 games, needs six hits to become the first Cleveland player since Kenny Lofton (210) in 1996 to reach the plateau.
SWINGS AND MISSES
Cleveland pitchers combined to strike out 11, marking the 69th time this season they've recorded 10 or more strikeouts in a game.
Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis continues to be slowed by a sore right hamstring. He missed three games last week, and Francona wants to monitor him closely. Kipnis pinch-hit in the eighth of the regularly scheduled game and grounded to short.
Rookie RHP Yordano Ventura (13-10) makes his biggest start to date for the Royals. He leads all MLB rookies in wins. RHP Danny Salazar (6-7) pitches on four days' rest for Cleveland after working 7 1-3 innings in his last start vs. Houston.