CLEVELAND (AP) - The Kansas City Royals handled Jim Thome. Ezequeil Carrera was their problem.
Cleveland's pesky rookie leadoff hitter drew a bases-loaded walk in the seventh inning off Kansas City's Tim Collins as the Royals wasted a strong outing by Felipe Paulino and fell to the Indians 2-1 on Friday night in Thome's homecoming.
Thome went hitless in four at_bats, striking out twice, as Kansas City's pitchers stopped the burly slugger with minimal effort.
Paulino (2-6) blanked the Indians for six innings, but got into trouble in the seventh and Collins couldn't bail him out.
Carlos Santana drew a one-out walk and Kosuke Fukudome singled. One out later, Jack Hannahan, who nearly drove in the tying run in the fifth, grounded a hard single to center. Santana never hesitated rounding third and slid home, tagging the plate with his outstretched left hand.
Paulino walked No. 9 hitter Lou Marson and was pulled for Collins. Carrera then worked his walk, taking ball four on a low full-count pitch to force in Fukudome. It was more tough luck in Cleveland for Paulino, who threw six shutout innings on July 31 against the Indians but got a no-decision.
Collins took full blame for blowing it.
``My job was to go in there and throw strikes and I didn't do that,' he said. ``That's just unacceptable going in there with the bases loaded and walking the first guy. That's not what you want to do.'
Manager Ned Yost was upset for Paulino, who has a 1.53 ERA in his last three road starts and zero wins.
``I feel bad for Paulino,' Yost said. ``He doesn't deserve the loss. He pitched far too good to lose the game.'
Ubaldo Jimenez (2-1) struck out 10 and allowed one run in seven innings, the kind of performance Cleveland had been needing from him since he came in a trade from Colorado. Other Eric Hosmer, who hit a leadoff homer in the fourth, the Royals struggled to make any real contact off Jimenez.
``Jimenez was awesome,' Yost said. ``He threw the ball really, really well.'
The Royals got the tying run to third with two outs in the ninth but Chris Perez got Chris Getz to line out to right his 28th save. Kansas City is just 4-9 against Cleveland this season.
Yost knows that for the young Royals to ever become contenders, they need to start winning close games.
``Those are games in the future we're going to have to find ways to win,' Yost said.
The Royals did all they could to spoil Thome's return.
He received a thunderous standing ovation when he came up for the first time in the second inning. Holding ``Welcome Thome' signs, fans clapped and yelled and he returned the love before his first at-bat with the Indians in nine years by taking off his batting helmet and bowing slightly.
Perhaps overanxious, he topped Paulino's first pitch, hitting a weak comebacker.
Thome struck out looking his second time up in the fifth, fooled by a chest-high fastball for strike three that he thought was out of the strike zone. Paulino struck him out again in the seventh, this time on a vicious cut, and Thome grounded to second in the eighth. He didn't have the impact he wanted, but the Indians won, and for Thome that's all that will matter.
For Paulino, getting Thome out once an achievement. In July, he gave up a 490-foot homer - the longest in Target Field's brief history - to Thome.
``I tried to pitch him different this time and it worked,' Paulino said. ``It's really special to pitch to him. Someday he's going to be in the Hall of Fame.'
Hosmer put the Royals up 1-0 in the fourth, when he hit Jimenez's first pitch over the wall in right-center. It was Hosmer's 12th homer, and Kansas City kept pressure on by loading the bases on three consecutive singles. Jimenez, though, got Chris Getz on a pop to second and retired Alex Gordon on a soft liner.
NOTES: Hosmer is third among AL rookies in homers. His 30 mulithit games leads all first-year players. ... OF Jeff Francoeur hit his 40th double, tying a career high. ... Royals OF Alex Gordon recorded his major league-leading 20th assist, when he threw out Fukudome at the plate in the fifth. ... Gordons's assist was Kansas City's 44th, also best in baseball.
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