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Series Preview #32 – Kansas City Royals (43-46) at Cleveland Indians (48-44)

Series Preview #32 – Kansas City Royals (43-46) at Cleveland Indians (48-44)

| On 12, Jul 2013

The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals will conclude the unofficial first half of the 2013 regular season with a three-game weekend set at Progressive Field prior to this year’s All-Star festivities from Citi Field in New York.

The Royals (43-46) have split the season series with the Indians so far at an even 5-5. Kansas City is 4-3 at home, but 1-2 in Cleveland. In 601 games since 1969, the Indians lead the all-time series with 308 wins versus 293 losses.

The Indians (48-44) are 4-6 in July after dropping back-to-back series against Kansas City and Detroit. They broke their funk by taking two of three from Toronto and are 6-2-1 in series since ending their eight-game losing streak that plagued the team in June.

Corey Kluber will take the mound for the Indians on Friday night at 7:05 PM ET against left-hander Bruce Chen. Kluber (6-5, 4.23 ERA) is just 2-2 at home on the season, but his home ERA is nearly two full runs lower than when on the road. Chen (3-0, 2.41) will make his first start of the season, replacing Luis Mendoza, who is heading to the bullpen. Fans in attendance will be treated to Sugardale dollar hot dogs and disco-themed fireworks post-game.

Scott Kazmir and Jeremy Guthrie will match up in Saturday’s 7:05 PM ET untelevised start. Kazmir (4-4, 4.74) is 4-0 with a 4.10 ERA at home this season. Guthrie (8-6, 4.12) threw one of his better outings of the last month, limiting the Yankees to one run in six-plus innings in a win his last time out. The Indians will give away 1902 replica road jerseys to the first 10,000 fans and provide Jimmy Buffett-themed post-game fireworks.

Ubaldo Jimenez and James Shields will conclude the first half at 1:05 PM ET on Sunday afternoon. Jimenez (7-4, 4.37) combined with his bullpen to throw an eight-hit shutout in his last outing. Shields (4-6, 3.12) has won two of his last three decisions (no-decision was against Cleveland on July 4th) after a span of ten consecutive winless starts.

Both Friday’s and Sunday’s games will be shown on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Kansas City. Radio broadcasts will be available for all three games on the radio affiliates of both the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals.

The Royals split a series in New York during the week against the Yankees.

Kansas City won on Monday night, 5-1, after taking an early lead and never looking back. Billy Butler hit a solo home run in the second off of Phil Hughes. Guthrie pitched deep into the seventh inning and allowed just one run on six hits. Greg Holland earned his 21st save of the season.

The Royals claimed the second game by a 3-1 final, despite a complete game effort from the Yankees’ CC Sabathia. Shields pitched seven innings and allowed just one to cross the plate on five hits. Holland earned his 22nd save. The Royals got a pair of solo home runs from David Lough and Butler.

The Yankees flipped the tables on the Royals in game three as they won by an 8-1 tally. Royals’ starter Wade Davis was shelled for eight earned runs in five innings after giving up a pair of home runs to Robinson Cano (three-run shot) and Lyle Overbay (grand slam).

New York earned the series split on Thursday with an 8-4 victory. The game was overshadowed by the return of captain Derek Jeter to the Yankees, who went 1-for-4 as the DH and knocked in a run before leaving the game with a quad injury. The game marked the second straight start that a Royals’ starter (Ervin Santana) allowed eight earned runs before exiting. Holding a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Santana surrendered four earned runs on three straight RBI-singles to end the inning.

The bat of Eric Hosmer has finally come alive this season. Over the last 30 days, he is batting .319 and leads the Royals with eight home runs and 20 RBI.

Butler, however, has been in a cold stretch, batting just .154 over the last ten games. He is batting .219 against the Indians this season.

Alex Gordon barely missed any time in the lineup after a scary collision with the wall in left field in Kansas City that led to an inside-the-park home run for Jason Kipnis the last time the two teams met up. He rejoined the batting order just three days later. He has two home runs and five runs driven in over ten plate appearances against Kluber. However, he is a .118 hitter lifetime against Jimenez.

The Indians took two of three from the Blue Jays this week to end a short string of two consecutive series losses.

Jimenez and the bullpen combined on an eight-hit, 3-0 shutout of the Blue Jays on Tuesday evening. Jimenez worked six innings and allowed five hits, a pair of walks, and struck out four. It was his first start completing six innings since he went eight against Tampa Bay on June 1st. The Indians scored a pair of runs with RBI-singles by Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley in the fourth. Chris Perez closed it out in the ninth to earn his tenth save of the year.

The Indians lost an early lead in the seventh and, after tying up the game at two in the bottom of the eighth, gave up three in the ninth in a 5-4 loss on Wednesday night. Justin Masterson was good throughout until he ran out of gas in the seventh inning, leading to the tying and go-ahead runs crossing the plate. The bullpen, aided by a poor effort from Joe Smith, allowed three runs to score in the ninth on a single to left center by Munenori Kawasaki after the Indians had tied it up. The Indians tagged Casey Janssen for a pair of runs in the ninth, but could not push across the tying run.

Thursday’s afternoon start was Danny Salazar’s time to shine on center stage, as his dominant six innings of work helped to give the Indians a 4-2 win on the day. Salazar took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and allowed just one run in his Major League debut. His seven strikeouts were the most by a Cleveland Indians pitcher in his debut since 1964. The Indians got on the board with solo home run from Asdrubal Cabrera off of R.A. Dickey in the first, added a pair on a two-run single by Lonnie Chisenhall in the sixth, and pushed one more run across the plate with an RBI-triple by Carlos Santana in the eighth.

Over the last week, the bat of Swisher has been much more of a threat in the lineup. He is batting .368 on the week with seven hits, including a home run and two runs batted in.

Brantley has been a similar threat, batting .333 with a pair of home runs and seven RBI, including five in the game against Detroit on July 7th. He has hit in five straight games and will be at the top of the order for the opener against Kansas City. He has posted an impressive nine hits in 14 at bats (.643) against the Royals’ Chen. He has just one hit (a double) in twelve plate appearances against Guthrie.

Mark Reynolds has been in a devastating slump. He has just two hits in nine July games and is in a 2-for-33 hole at the plate. In 37 plate appearances, he has struck out 15 times and walked just three. Both hits were singles against Detroit on July 8th. He has struck out in nine of his 18 career plate appearances against Shields and has a batting mark of .125.

The revolving door continued to turn in the Indians bullpen with a series of roster moves over the course of the last several days. Rookie reliever Preston Guilmet was returned to Columbus to make a roster spot for Salazar for Thursday’s game. Salazar since has been optioned to Triple-A and Chen-Chang Lee has been recalled and inserted into the Cleveland bullpen.

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played Tuesday night at 8:00 PM. Masterson and Kipnis will represent the Indians, while Gordon and Salvador Perez will represent the Royals. The Indians will resume play next Friday in Minnesota against the Twins, while the Royals will return home to host the Detroit Tigers.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images