Series Preview #17: Cleveland Indians (24-26) at Kansas City Royals (29-19)
Bob Toth | On 02, Jun 2015
If ever there was a time for the Cleveland Indians to prove that they intend on being in the American League Central Division race this season, the time is right now as they face the second place Kansas City Royals in a three-game weekday set from Kauffman Stadium in Missouri.
The Indians (24-26) have been playing better baseball overall of late and have done better to not beat themselves. They put together a 17-12 record in May, which does not erase the damage done in a subpar 7-14 April, but it does help to at least climb a bit out of the hole they put themselves in. Any chance to get back into the mix will start in the Central, where they have played a disappointing 10-17 against their four divisional rivals while going 14-9 against the rest of baseball.
Over the weekend, the Indians avoided King Felix and took three of four from the Seattle Mariners to crawl closer and closer to the .500 mark while continuing to excel outside of the division. Cleveland pitching struck out 16 batters on Thursday in a 5-3 win. The Mariners evened the series on Friday and held on in the ninth with the Indians’ possible tying run at third base with two outs in a 2-1 win. Cleveland had nearly half as many hits as the Mariners on Saturday, but they made a sacrifice fly from Nick Swisher, a two-run homer from Jerry Sands, and an RBI-single from David Murphy stand in a 4-3 win. They needed 12 innings on Sunday to secure the series, as Michael Brantley’s bases loaded walk in extras was followed by a two-run single from Murphy in a 6-3 victory.
The Royals (29-19) have been in a slide of sorts and have lost their hold on the top spot in the division. After a five-game winning streak, they have dropped five of six. They split a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs over the weekend, with Mother Nature staking a claim to the middle game of the set in the Windy City.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Carrasco is just 5-4 in his career in the month of June, but has a 3.09 ERA and a .228 batting average against him. He has limited several key Kansas City hitters to little success in their careers, including Salvador Perez (.154 average), Mike Moustakas (.100), Alex Rios (.100), and Alex Gordon (.095 with ten strikeouts in 25 plate appearances). Guthrie, who spent his first three MLB seasons with the Tribe, is 5-5 against them in 14 games with a 6.14 ERA during his time with Baltimore and Kansas City. Opposing Indians hitters have batted .309 against him, including .316 this season and .408 last.
Kluber is 4-3 in his career against the Royals, but just 1-2 in KC. A pair of their lefties – Eric Hosmer (three homers, eleven RBI) and Moustakas (.481 average, one homer, five doubles) – have hurt Kluber in the past. Vargas missed two and a half weeks while on the disabled list recovering from a left flexor strain. He is 5-3 against the Indians in his career in eleven starts.
Bauer will be looking for his first win against the Royals after posting one loss and three no-decisions in four previous starts. Perez might wish he did not have to see him, as he has just a double in ten at bats off of him with five strikeouts. Young is 4-1 this season, including 3-1 as a fill-in starter with a 1.57 ERA. In relief, he has allowed just two runs in 12 innings and a 0.50 WHIP. The 6’10” righty is 2-0 in his career against Cleveland.
Television broadcasts of the three-game series will be provided by Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Kansas City. KCSP 610 will broadcast the radio version of the series in the Kansas City area, while your local affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network will provide the calls for the Indians.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Minnesota 30-19 .612 – W2
Kansas City 29-19 .604 0.5 L1
Detroit 28-24 .538 3.5 L4
Cleveland 24-26 .480 6.5 W2
Chicago 23-26 .469 7.0 W1
The Indians, despite losing two of three to the Royals at home back in April and another two of three in KC in May, still hold a 325-310 edge all-time in the head-to-head matchups between the two organizations. Cleveland has outscored them by 210 runs in these games.
The Royals have played much better at home this season than on the road, posting a 17-7 record on their home turf while outscoring the opposition by 45. That advantage has also rang true against the Indians, whom they are 176-144 against when the home team.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Scott Atchison (RP) – 15-day disabled list (May 31) – right ankle sprain
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Jerry Sands (UTIL) – designated for assignment 5/31
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Tim Collins (RP) – 60-day disabled list (May 7) – recovery from March 2015 Tommy John surgery
Danny Duffy (SP) – 15-day disabled list (May 17) – left biceps tendinitis
Brian Flynn (RP) – 60-day disabled list (May 16) – left latissimus dorsi tear
Erik Kratz (C) – 15-day disabled list (May 6) – left foot inflammation
Kris Medlen (RP) – 60-day disabled list (March 7) – recovery from March 2014 Tommy John surgery
Most Indians hitters have fared well against Guthrie in their career, with current members of the team combining to hit .355 off of him. Lonnie Chisenhall (.529), Jason Kipnis (.500), Jose Ramirez (.500), Carlos Santana (.455), and Brandon Moss (.429) are the best of the bunch. Yan Gomes is just 2-for-13 (.154) with a single and a double.
Vargas has been more difficult on the Tribe, as they have combined to bat .227 against him. Gomes is 4-for-10 with a homer, but Murphy is 2-for-24 (.083), Ryan Raburn is 3-for-25 (.120), and Ramirez is 1-for-7 (.143).
Moss has had the most power production off of Young, hitting three homers and driving in four while batting .286. Michael Bourn has five hits in ten at bats, while Kipnis has three extra base hits (two doubles, one homer) in six at bats.
Five Royals would be headed to Cincinnati as starters in July if the All-Star balloting ended today. KC fans have stuffed the ballot and the impact has been noticed.
Catcher Perez is the AL leading vote getting overall and leads all backstops. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain is the second-leading vote getter and tops in the outfield. He is joined by Gordon, who is third in outfield voting. Gordon was 4-for-8 in their series against the Cubs.
Moustakas is the third-leading vote getter and is holding down the hot corner. He is batting .320 this season with five homers and 16 RBI. This season against the Indians, he has hit .480 and driven in a pair of runs.
Alcides Escobar is looking to make his first All-Star team at shortstop. Hosmer is trailing Miguel Cabrera but has closed the gap at first base. Omar Infante and Kendrys Morales are also second at their respective positions. Morales has hit .333 against the Indians this season with a pair of homers and seven RBI, the most he has against any one team this season.
One-time Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman has returned to professional baseball this season, back down on the farm for the Royals with their Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers club.
Kotchman’s last full Major League season came with Cleveland in 2012 when he hit .229 with 12 homers and 55 RBI while manning first base and designated hitter. The former highly-touted prospect was in his ninth big league season at the time after spending previous time with the Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays. He became a free agent following the 2012 season and signed with the Miami Marlins, but played just six games for the club at the MLB level.
The power in his bat never developed the way some had hoped, but he was well above-average with the glove. In 870 career MLB games at first base, he made just 18 errors in 7,331 chances, a .998 fielding percentage.
The 32-year-old is hitting .343 in 30 games in the minors this season with a pair of homers and 13 RBI after missing all of 2014.
The Indians return home after Thursday night’s contest to host the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game series as part of their six-game homestand in the next seven days. The Royals will swing through Texas to take on the Rangers for three games before returning home to host a three-team, eight-game homestand of their own.
Photo: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren