Series Preview #43: Cleveland Indians (68-64) at Kansas City Royals (74-59)
Bob Toth | On 29, Aug 2014
August has been kind to the Cleveland Indians. With three days left in the month, they will need that trend to continue. The team will wrap up their best month of the season so far with three games at Kauffman Stadium against the American League Central leading Kansas City Royals with an opportunity to erase some significant distance in the standings
The Indians (68-64) won their fourth consecutive series and have now won five of their last six, failing only to split a two-game set with Arizona during that span. In three closely contested games in Chicago, they took two of three from the White Sox, a team that had won six of their first seven games against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field this season. In ten innings on Tuesday, a two-run home run from Zach Walters lifted Cleveland to an 8-6 victory. With staff ace Corey Kluber on the mound on Wednesday, the Indians dropped a 3-2 final. They bounced back for the series win on Thursday, holding on to support another dominant outing from Carlos Carrasco and a four-out, four strikeout save from Cody Allen in a 3-2 win.
The series kept the Indians within five and a half games of the front-running Royals. It also cut the gap in the AL Wild Card race to four games, although they will need to hurdle Detroit, Seattle, and New York to pull into the second wild card slot. They are 15-9 in the month and have outscored their opposition by 14 runs. One more win will give the Indians organization 9,000 in their history.
The Royals (74-59) took two of three from Minnesota during the week. A two-run walk-off home run from Alex Gordon on Tuesday night gave the Royals a 2-1 come-from-behind win. A six-run eighth inning gave the Royals a last at bat win over the Twins on Wednesday, 6-1. Minnesota returned the favor on Thursday, scoring six runs in the tenth inning to avoid the sweep with an 11-5 final.
As seems to consistently be the case, the Indians will face off against multiple left-handers again this series. Jason Vargas (10-6, 3.17 ERA) will be the first southpaw to the mound for Ned Yost’s club on Friday night. He is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA in two starts against Cleveland this season. Danny Salazar (4-6, 4.52) will look to keep Cleveland’s run of solid starting pitching in tact. He is 1-2 in August, but has given up two earned runs or less in three of those outings. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.
James Shields (12-7, 3.45) will start the middle game of the series for the Royals. He has faced the Indians just once this season, allowing six hits over six innings while striking out nine in a win at Progressive Field. Trevor Bauer (5-7, 4.18) will counter for Cleveland. He earned his first win in over a month in his last outing, striking out nine batters and allowing no runs to cross the plate on four hits. Game time on Saturday is set at 7:10 PM ET.
Lefty Danny Duffy (8-11, 2.47) will take center stage in the nationally televised final game of the weekend set at 8:07 PM ET. After a 0-3 record with a 2.01 ERA in five July starts, he is 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA in five August outings. Fellow left-hander T.J. House (2-3, 4.18) will take the ball for Terry Francona. House has posted his single best ERA in a month so far in August with a 3.43 ERA in four starts.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Kansas City will handle the broadcasts of each of the first two games of the series. ESPN2 will air the finale. The Indians Radio Network and the Royals Radio Network will handle radio calls of all three games this weekend.
The Indians are 15 wins to the good in their all-time series with the Royals. Cleveland has claimed 319 victories while Kansas City has 304. The Royals hold the edge in Missouri, posting a 164-145 record lifetime against the Indians since 1969.
The two teams last met at the end of July, when the Royals took three of four from the Tribe. In the final game between the two clubs, the Indians ended their five-game losing streak in Kansas City with a 10-3 win. Salazar claimed the victory that Sunday night one month ago.
Home field has played the advantage for each throughout the season. The Indians are 5-2 against the Royals in Cleveland, but 1-5 in Kansas City.
In unexpected news of the week, the Indians announced on Friday that they had signed veteran slugger Russell Branyan and assigned him to Triple-A Columbus. Branyan, who was drafted by the Indians in the 1994 amateur draft, will make his fifth tour with the Indians organization. He was last with the club in June of 2010 before he was dealt to the Seattle Mariners. He last appeared in the Majors in 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
On Thursday, reliever Josh Outman, who started the season with the Major League squad, was traded to the New York Yankees for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
Right fielder David Murphy (right abdominal strain) is on the 15-day disabled list. Ryan Raburn (right wrist soreness), on the 15-day DL, saw his rehab assignment move to Double-A Akron, where he joined teammate Jason Giambi (left knee inflammation). First baseman Nick Swisher will miss the rest of the season after surgery on both knees.
Royals infielder Omar Infante is day-to-day with a sore shoulder. He missed all three games of the series with the Twins. Pitcher Yordano Ventura skipped his start on Wednesday with tightness in his back.
First baseman Eric Hosmer (fractured right hand) is on the 15-day disabled list and will miss the series against the Indians but is getting closer to starting a rehab assignment.
The Royals optioned reliever Aaron Crow to Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday to make room for Liam Hendriks. Hendriks was optioned Thursday to the same club to make room for reliever Scott Downs, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list.
BY THE NUMBERS
Michael Bourn has hit safely in each of the last five games, getting nine hits in his last 22 at bats (.409). He hit a pair of triples in the series finale against Chicago, giving him his second two-triple game of the season and the lead in the AL. He became just the seventh Indians player in team history with at least two multi-triple games in one season. He is hitting .325 in his last ten games and .272 on the season.
Roberto Perez had a solid series at the plate against Chicago, hitting .455 (five hits in eleven at bats) over the course of the three games. Mark Simon of ESPN New York shared a stat on Thursday that indicated that Perez leads all catchers in the MLB in blocking pitches, with a 96.8% success rate. All-Star Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers is second with a 96.6% rate.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas will be eager for the opportunity to once again feast on Indians pitching. Six of his 15 home runs this season have come against Cleveland and he has driven in a dozen runs against them, more than any other team he has faced this season.
Gordon continues to make highlight defensive plays in the outfield, but his bat has continued to aid his club at the plate. He is hitting .282 on the season with 17 home runs and 61 RBI and made his second All-Star appearance in July.
This weekend will mark 18 years since former Royals fan favorite Kevin Seitzer became a member of the Cleveland Indians.
On August 31, 1996 at the waiver trade deadline, the Indians looked to add a veteran bat for their playoff push and sent left-handed slugging outfielder Jeromy Burnitz to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Seitzer.
Burnitz blossomed in Milwaukee, making an All-Star team in 1999. He had six seasons of 30 or more home runs, including a four-year stretch with the Brewers from 1998 to 2001.
Seitzer, meanwhile, was at the tail end of his career. He spent his first six seasons in Royals’ blue, leading the league in hits and plate appearances in his first full season in 1987, when he was an All-Star and second in the Rookie of the Year voting. After leaving via free agency for Milwaukee, he spent a half season in Oakland before returning to Wisconsin for parts of four more seasons.
Seitzer played 22 games for the Indians in 1996, hitting .386, posting a .480 on-base percentage, and driving in 16 runs. He hit .294 in the postseason that year for the Indians and drove in four runs in four games in the ALDS loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
He spent another 64 games with Cleveland as a corner infielder and DH in 1997, batting .268. He is currently the hitting coach of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Indians will have a quick turnaround heading into the Labor Day holiday, starting a four-game series with the team directly ahead of them in the AL Central standings, the Detroit Tigers, in a Monday afternoon start. The Royals will stay home to host the Texas Rangers for three games before heading on the road.
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images