It was a Friday night to forget for the Royals, who committed four errors on defense and managed just six hits in a 4-1 loss to Cleveland at Royals Stadium.
Royals starter Paul Splittorff wasn’t sharp, either, allowing nine hits in 6 ⅔ innings, while walking four and only striking out two. Cleveland picked up a first inning run when Jorge Orta, Mike Hargrove, and Gary Alexander all singled with one out. Alan Bannister also singled with two outs, but Splittorff got Bo Diaz to fly out to left and leave the bases loaded.
Kansas City’s offense did little against Cleveland starter Len Barker, who struck out seven in his seven innings. Amos Otis provided the Royals’ only run, as he tied the score at 1-1 with his ninth homer of the season with two outs in the fourth.
Three of the Royals’ errors came in the fifth, and they handed Cleveland two unearned runs. Orta and Hargrove started the inning with singles, although Otis fired a strike to third to cut down Orta trying to advance. Alexander hit a fly ball that was dropped by right fielder Clint Hurdle. Hargrove, who took second on the Orta play, raced for home. Frank White’s relay throw beat him, but Hargrove collided with catcher Darrell Porter and knocked the ball loose. As the ball rolled away, Alexander took third. Porter was charged with an error on the play. Toby Harrah drew a walk, and Splittorff got the ground ball he needed…but White’s throw to first to complete the double play sailed into the Royals’ dugout. That allowed Alexander to score and the Indians had a 3-1 lead.
Cleveland added one more run in the seventh, as Splittorff walked Hargrove and Harrah. Bannister picked up an RBI with a single. A small bright spot for the Royals was that Renie Martin, who took over for Splittorff after that hit, tossed 2 ⅓ scoreless innings.
Before the game, the Royals announced that manager Jim Frey and his coaching staff (Billy Connors, Jim Schaeffer, Jose Martinez, and Gordie Mackenzie) had all signed contract extensions through the 1981 season.
The loss was the Royals’ second straight, the first time they had lost consecutive games since losing three straight from June 29-July 1. Between those two “losing streaks,” the Royals went 34-11. Even after the two losses to Cleveland, Kansas City had a 15.5-game lead in the AL West and a 78-44 record.
George Brett watch: 1-4 with a single. Season stats: .402/.462/.680
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA198008220.shtml
1980 baseball news: While the Royals were running away with the AL West, the Baltimore Orioles had almost completely closed the gap in the AL East. The New York Yankees led the division by 9.5 games on July 19, but on this date, the Orioles won in Oakland while the Yankees lost in California. That meant Baltimore was just a half-game out of first with 42 games left for the Orioles and 43 for the Yankees.