Series Preview #48: Kansas City Royals (75-68) at Cleveland Indians (76-66)
Bob Toth | On 09, Sep 2013
With their playoff destiny very much in their own hands, the Cleveland Indians kept pace in the American League Wild Card race by claiming their series with the New York Mets.
The Indians (76-66) won their final interleague series of the season over the weekend, twice defeating the Mets before dropping Sunday’s finale. Cleveland is five and a half games in back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, but is only two games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second Wild Card spot in the AL. While they cannot control what the teams in front of them do in the race between now and the end of the regular season, they can take care of their own business and hope for the best.
The Royals (75-68) come to Cleveland right on the Indians’ tail in the division, just one and a half games behind the Tribe. Their trip to Cleveland will mark their final three games at Progressive Field this season. Kansas City plays 13 of its final 19 games on the road, with the exception of three games with the Indians and three with the Texas Rangers next week.
Ubaldo Jimenez (10-9, 3.79 ERA) will be the Monday starter for the Indians at 7:05 PM ET. He earned the win in his last start with six scoreless innings of effort. Ervin Santana (8-8, 3.33) will oppose for the Royals. He has not won in his last six outings, despite three different times allowing two earned runs or less.
Zach McAllister (7-8, 3.97) will make Tuesday’s 7:05 PM ET first pitch for Terry Francona’s Tribe. He is 3-3 in nine starts since returning from the disabled list in July, but has been lifted before completing five innings in each of his last two starts. Jeremy Guthrie (13-10, 4.19) will counter for the Royals against his former team. After winning four consecutive decisions starting in late July, he has posted a 1-3 record and has allowed four runs or more in four of the six starts.
Former Tampa Bay teammates Scott Kazmir (8-7, 4.17) and James Shields (10-9, 3.43) will make the 12:05 PM ET start on Wednesday afternoon. Kazmir won for the first time in a month his last time out and accumulated his highest strikeout total in a game since striking out 13 on August 25th, 2007 against Oakland. Shields was 4-1 in August and carried it into his first September start, seven innings of scoreless, three-hit ball against the Toronto Blue Jays, but was rocked his last time out.
Monday’s game will be aired on the MLB Network. All three games will be broadcast on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio, with only the first two games airing on Fox Sports Kansas City. Radio broadcasts will be available on the affiliates of both the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Royals Radio Network.
The Royals come to town after completing a successful 5-2 homestand against Seattle and Detroit.
The Tigers dropped 16 runs on the Royals on Friday night to hand them their most lopsided loss of the season, a 16-2 defeat. Shields surrendered ten runs on 14 hits in three and two-thirds innings, while reliever Luis Mendoza coughed up another five. Anibal Sanchez allowed one run and seven hits over seven innings for the win for Detroit. The Tigers were 13-for-26 with runners in scoring position and scored all of their runs without a home run.
The Kansas City bullpen outlasted Justin Verlander on Saturday, as the Royals hit the veteran for four runs in seven innings and came away with a 4-2 win. A two-run, tie-breaking home run by Salvador Perez in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs proved to be the difference in the ball game. Wade Davis (7-10) pitched an inning and two-thirds of relief for the win and Greg Holland closed out his 39th save of the season.
Another home run proved to be the difference on Sunday, as Eric Hosmer’s three-run blast with two outs in the fifth off of Doug Fister gave the Royals the lead and the KC staff made the lead last in a 5-2 final. Bruce Chen (7-2) earned the win with seven innings of work. Holland saved game number 40.
Perez is batting .400 in seven September games. He has four extra base hits (two doubles, two home runs) and six runs batted in during the month.
Hosmer has hit .379 to start the month in eight games with a team-high seven RBI. He has hit a pair of home runs and driven in five runs while batting .316 in his career against Jimenez.
Utility man and former Indians player Jamey Carroll has a lifetime .583 batting average against Kazmir. He has batted .364 against Jimenez.
The Royals have the fewest home runs hit in the American League on the season, notching just their 100th with Hosmer’s blast Sunday. On the other side of the coin, they have also struck out the fewest times and have stolen the most bases in all of baseball.
Indians batters have a combined lifetime batting average of .197 against Santana.
The Indians wrapped up the interleague portion of the schedule by taking two of three from the Mets over the weekend.
Kazmir pitched six shutout innings with a season-high 12 strikeouts and the offense gave plenty of runs of support, as the Indians knocked off the Mets, 8-1, on Friday night. Kazmir was in command throughout the night, allowing just four singles, and struck out a batter in every inning, including the side in the first, third, and sixth innings. The Indians got runs on sacrifice flies from Carlos Santana and Michael Bourn and added to their tally with an RBI single by Santana in the fifth and an RBI double by Lonnie Chisenhall in the sixth. Nick Swisher capped off the scoring with an eighth inning grand slam to the bleachers.
A five run first inning gave Corey Kluber the runs of support he needed in his first start off of the disabled list, as the Indians won 9-4 on Saturday night. Kluber pitched into the sixth inning and was charged with two runs on five hits with five strikeouts. After the bullpen allowed the Mets to climb back within two runs at 6-4, Asdrubal Cabrera broke an 0-for-19 slump with a three-run home run into the New York bullpen in the seventh. Swisher homered for the second consecutive night.
Squandered opportunities against a recent member of the Indians organization wasted an impressive four innings on the mound by Danny Salazar, as Cleveland dropped the finale to New York, 2-1. Salazar struck out eight despite struggling with command. He allowed a Justin Turner home run deep to the bleachers for the lone damage off of him. The Indians could not do damage against Daisuke Matsuzaka, who allowed just one run and three hits in five and two-thirds innings. Cabrera was hit by a Vic Black pitch with the bases loaded to force in the Indians’ only run of the game. Chris Perez allowed the go-ahead run on a two-out double by Eric Young Jr. in the top of the ninth to break up the tie.
Yan Gomes is batting .538 in September with four RBI in 13 at bats. He is batting .300 over the last month and .302 for the season with nine home runs and 33 RBI.
Michael Brantley is expected to be back in uniform for Monday’s game after missing the weekend series due to the birth of his first child on Saturday. He is hitting .278 on the year. When at the plate with runners in scoring position, he is batting a team-best .350 with 48 RBI. He is just 2-for-16 (.125) against Guthrie in his career.
Cleveland pitching has a 3.00 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP through seven September games, both fourth-best in the American League behind Baltimore, Toronto, and Oakland.
The Indians will take their show on the road to the southside of Chicago, where they will play the White Sox in four games before facing the Royals again in Kansas City. The Royals will head north to Comerica Park in Detroit to play three over the weekend with the Tigers.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images