KANSAS CITY — With one swing of the bat, Alex Gordon wiped clean five innings of sketchy pitching.
The Royals' bullpen wasn't done issuing walks.
Gordon hit a tying grand slam in the fifth inning Tuesday night, only for the Kansas City bullpen to hand out more free passes to the Cleveland Indians.
Three of them in the seventh inning resulted in the go-ahead runs in what turned out to be a 6-5 defeat.
"It was a big game. We could have gained some ground," Gordon said. "That's a good team over there, a lot of solid players. We know it's going to be a grind when we play them. That's what it was tonight. We just came just came up a little short."
Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera each drove in a pair of runs for the Indians, who wound up drawing eight walks in their fifth straight win.
Cody Allen (3-0) earned the win in relief for Cleveland, while Chris Perez survived putting two aboard in the ninth for his eighth save of the season.
"It was an exciting game, but you're kind of shooting yourself in the foot when you've got eight walks and a hit batter," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Half their runs came off benefits of walks with guys on base and a hit batter."
Royals reliever Tim Collins (2-3) walked the only two batters he faced to start the seventh, Aaron Crow walked another to load the bases, and Santana came through with a go-ahead sacrifice fly.
Giambi added a run-scoring double later in the inning that proved invaluable when Billy Butler hit an RBI double off Vinnie Pestano to get the Royals within 6-5 in the eighth.
David Lough came to the plate with runners on the corners but grounded into an inning-ending double play, and the Indians held on for their fifth win in six games against Kansas City.
"The offense is putting up some big numbers," Indians reliever Joe Smith said. "Hopefully we can keep rolling like we have the past couple of weeks."
After going on a 14-5 run to close June, the Indians (45-38) built on a four-game sweep of the White Sox by winning for the ninth time in 11 road games. The victory over another division rival also put them seven games over .500 for the first time since May 24.
"We feel good about where we are right now," the Indians' Nick Swisher said.
They wasted little time getting on the board Tuesday night, loading the bases with one out against Mendoza before Santana recovered from a 0-2 count to walk in a run. Mendoza then uncorked a pitch that nicked Mark Reynolds in the shoulder — and just barely missed his head — to force in another run. Mendoza got out of the inning with a bases-loaded double play.
His erratic ways resulted in more trouble when the fourth inning rolled around.
This time, Mendoza gave up consecutive singles to Giambi and Lonnie Chisenhall and a one-out walk to Michael Brantley to load the bases. Cabrera slipped a single through the right side of the infield to make it 4-0 before Jason Kipnis grounded into another inning-ending double play.
"It was my command," Mendoza said. "I was just trying to figure what was wrong with my mechanics and my release points. I gave up a lot of ground balls in the hole."
Corey Kluber, who gave up seven runs without making it through the fifth his last time out, was having his way with the Royals' still-scuffling lineup the first couple times through it.
The right-hander ran into trouble in the fifth inning.
Mike Moustakas and David Lough singled and Johnny Giavotella walked to load the bases with nobody out. Jarrod Dyson flied to left field, and Moustakas thought about tagging up, but he ultimately thought better of it and scampered back to third base.
No matter: Gordon was waiting in the on-deck circle.
The Royals' leadoff hitter was swinging on a 3-0 pitch and drilled the ball to right field, clearing the fence with ease and pulling the Royals into a 4-4 tie. It was Gordon's second grand slam of the season and the third for Kansas City.
It was also the Royals' biggest highlight once their bullpen started to falter.
"I thought Alex Gordon gave us a big shot in the arm when he hit the grand slam," Yost said. "But we came back out in the seventh and walk the first three guys to set up a two-run inning for them. It's a little disappointing in terms of that."