Series Preview #7: Kansas City Royals (12-6) at Cleveland Indians (6-11)
Bob Toth | On 27, Apr 2015
The Cleveland Indians will hope that home can be a sweet home for the first time this season as they host the final of four AL Central divisional rivals this week as the reeling Kansas City Royals come to town for a three-game weekday set.
The Indians concluded their nine-game road trip consistently, dropping two of three in each stop over the last ten days. Their stay over the weekend in Detroit was a bit different than the other two, as they won the series opener with a rare display of power and runs, scoring a season-high in a 13-1 win on Friday. They fell 4-1 on Saturday after T.J. House had to make an emergency spot start while the bats fell dormant once again. The bats were healthier on Sunday, but the Tigers got to starter Carlos Carrasco in his worst start of the month as Detroit held on to beat Cleveland, 8-6.
The series loss maintained the Indians’ spot as the worst team, not just in the Central, but in the AL to start the season.
The Royals had an eventful series previously with the Chicago White Sox. After winning a 3-2 final in 13 innings in an ejection-filled mess of a game on Thursday night, Friday night’s game was suspended by rain. Saturday’s game was also postponed, so they completed their suspended game Sunday morning and lost 3-2. Their regularly scheduled Sunday game also went the way of the White Sox, 5-3, knocking the Royals out of their spot at the top of the division.
A total of seven players, including four Royals, were issued suspensions or fines as a result of the fracas.
Monday, 4/27, 6:10 PM ET – LHP Jason Vargas (1-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (0-2, 3.90)
Tuesday, 4/28, 6:10 PM ET – RHP Jeremy Guthrie (1-1, 5.50) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (2-0, 0.95)
Wednesday, 4/29, 6:10 PM ET – RHP Yordano Ventura (2-1, 4.09) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (2-0, 2.08)
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Kansas City will air all three games of the series. Radio calls can be found on your affiliate of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and KCSP 610 in Kansas City.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Detroit 13-6 .684 – W2
Kansas City 12-6 .667 0.5 L2
Chicago 8-9 .471 4.0 W2
Minnesota 8-10 .444 4.5 W2
Cleveland 6-11 .357 6.0 L2
The Indians have gotten the better of the Royals throughout their shared histories, winning 323 of the 629 games between the two since 1969. They own a sizeable advantage on their home field, with a 175-142 record on the shores of Lake Erie.
The series between the two has been hotly contested in each of the last three years, with each club winning 28 games. The Indians have had a 10-9 edge in each of the last two seasons. The Royals took two of three the last time the teams met in late September, but the Indians won the season finale between the two clubs, with Zach McAllister earning the victory in a 6-4 final on September 24th.
INJURY UPDATES and TRANSACTIONS
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Yan Gomes (C) – 15-day disabled list (April 12) – right MCL sprain
Nick Swisher (DH) – 15-day disabled list (April 2) – rehabbing from double knee surgery in Columbus
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Aaron Brooks (P) – recalled from Triple-A Omaha
Tim Collins (RP) – 15-day disabled list (April 5) – recovery from March 2015 Tommy John surgery
Luke Hochevar (RP) – 15-day disabled list (April 5) – recovery from March 2014 Tommy John surgery
Greg Holland (CL) – 15-day disabled list (April 18) – right pectoral strain
Kris Medlen (RP) – 60-day disabled list (March 7) – recovery from March 2014 Tommy John surgery
Alex Rios (OF) – 15-day disabled list (April 14) – left hand fracture
Edinson Volquez (SP) – dropped appeal of five-game suspension, will begin April 27
RUNNING HOT AND COLD
Some bats for Cleveland are starting to wake from their long slumber.
Michael Brantley was hard to keep off base in the series against Detroit. He was 8-for-13, including a four-hit game on Saturday, and has boosted his average to .341 on the year. He has homered against two of the three KC starters in the series (Guthrie, Ventura) and has a .317 average against current Royals pitchers with a dozen RBI.
Carlos Santana was 4-for-9 with hits in all three games, drove in three runs, scored four times, and added in four walks in typical Santana fashion. He now is second in the AL in walks, behind New York’s Alex Rodriguez. Ryan Raburn leads the club with a .385 average in eleven games and is third on the team with eight RBI.
Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain is hitting .375 to start the season, good for fourth-best in the AL, with a pair of homers, six doubles, and 12 runs batted in. He owns a .318 average against current Indians pitchers. All-Star catcher Salvador Perez has three homers and a dozen RBI of his own to go with his .314 average on the year.
Still struggling, Michael Bourn was removed from the leadoff spot in the lineup after his sustained slump has him hitting .169 on the season with a .239 on-base percentage. This includes a recent 0-for-12 stretch against Detroit with one walk. Jason Kipnis, who was bumped into the top spot in the lineup, has struggled of late as well, hitting .195 in his last ten games and .225 on the season. He was 3-for-13 in the series against Detroit with a pair of runs scored.
Thrust into a starting job, Roberto Perez’s bat has cooled off as well. Since a career-best tying three-hit game against Minnesota on April 18th, the backstop is hitless in the last six games and is in the depths of an 0-for-16 slide with three walks, but five strikeouts.
Mike Moustakas hit just .197 against Indians pitching with 15 strikeouts last year. However, that said, six of his 13 hits against Cleveland left the yard and he drove in a dozen runs.
Kluber may be more excited than anyone to see the Royals come to town. He was 2-1 against them in four starts in 2014 with a 1.15 ERA. He retired at least one batter in the ninth inning in three of the four games.
Several Royals have floundered against the reigning Cy Young winner. Perez is just 2-for-16 (.125). Cain has managed just a 2-for-15 (.133) line. Shortstop Alcides Escobar has five hits in 25 at bats (.200), but has struck out ten times. Alex Gordon also has struck out ten times in 25 at bats against him, but does have a pair of home runs in his four career hits off of him.
Vargas has seen success against David Murphy (2-for-24, .083 average) and Ryan Raburn (3-for-20, two doubles, .150 average) in their careers. He is 3-3 in his career against Cleveland in nine starts with a 5.19 ERA and was 1-1 last season with a 4.94 ERA.
Bauer, bumped back to Tuesday after illness on Saturday afternoon, is 0-1 in three starts against KC in his career with an even one-to-one strikeout to walk ratio in those games. Gordon is hitless in nine trips to the plate against him but has walked three times. Perez has struck out in five of his eight trips with a double. Escobar is 4-for-6 with a double and a run batted in.
The former Indians prospect Guthrie has a lifetime 5-5 mark against Cleveland in 13 games with a 6.06 ERA. Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall is 8-for-15 (.533) in his career against him with a homer and five runs batted in. Kipnis has been even more successful, with three doubles and a pair of homers against him to make up his eleven hits in 20 at bats (.550). He has driven in nine runs against him. Santana has hit .476 against him with three doubles, two homers, and four runs batted in.
Salazar has allowed five hits to Eric Hosmer in nine at bats, including three doubles. He is 2-3 in his career against the Royals in five career starts with a 5.33 ERA.
Ventura has given up home runs to Brantley, Santana, and Brandon Moss in his brief time in the Majors, but has limited Kipnis to a .188 average with five strikeouts in 16 trips to the plate. He made his MLB debut against Cleveland in September of 2013 and is a perfect 2-0 in two starts at Progressive Field with a 0.59 ERA. He is 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in five starts against the Indians in his career.
The Indians pitching staff, owners of the most strikeouts in the AL and second-most in baseball, will face a Royals lineup responsible for the fewest strikeouts in the MLB with 98. As a positive note from an offensive standpoint for Cleveland, they have the second fewest strikeouts as a team with 118.
Former Indians player Luis Medina has found a home in the front office of the Royals.
Medina was drafted in the ninth round of the 1985 draft by the Indians and reached the Majors in 1988 after a minor league career filled with home run power. In his first full season in the organization in 1986, he hit 35 homers and drove in 110 while batting .317 in 136 games for Class-A Waterloo.
He memorably slugged homer after homer in his first few weeks with the club, notably hitting four homers and driving in six runs in a three-game stretch against the New York Yankees over a seven-day span in September of his rookie season. He hit .255 in 16 games in his month with the club and began 1989 with the club. After a slow start that included a .205 batting average and 35 strikeouts in 83 at bats, he was shipped out to Colorado Springs (AAA). He remained in the minors through the rest of 1989, all of 1990, and parts of 1991. He returned briefly to the Majors in 1991, playing in five games with the Indians and striking out seven more times in 16 at bats and was granted his free agency following the season.
He signed with Kansas City and spent time with their Triple-A club in 1992 and spent three more seasons playing overseas in Japan. He now works as a special assistant to the general manager/player personnel after several years as a pro scout. He previously worked as a scout and area supervisor for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Royals will head home after their brief two-city road trip to host the Detroit Tigers for four games starting Thursday night. The Indians will remain at home as they host the Toronto Blue Jays for four straight beginning Thursday before heading out to Kansas City to rematch these same Royals.
Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya