Series Preview #32: Kansas City Royals (59-38) at Cleveland Indians (45-52)
Bob Toth | On 27, Jul 2015
If this is not rock bottom, it is scary to think what could lie ahead for the Cleveland Indians with 65 more games left on the docket for the 2015 season.
A month ago, it looked as though the Indians (45-52) had reached their lowest point when they went into Baltimore and were swept by the Orioles. At the time, the three game skid, capped by a pair of shutouts to conclude the series, pushed an extended run of bad play to seven losses in a nine-game span. They then spun a five-game winning streak on the road against Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh to gain four games on the division leader, but since have played inconsistent baseball to put it in an extremely family friendly context.
The rash of inconsistencies hit another low during their four-game series this weekend against the Chicago White Sox. In a battle of fourth place versus fifth place in the American League Central, the struggling Sox, losers of four straight coming in, did horrible and indescribable things to the Indians in laying waste to possibly their season and playoff hopes in one swoop. They knocked off the Tribe, 8-1, on Thursday. The offense continued its absence in a 6-0 shutout, the club’s ninth of the year, surpassing the totals for each of the last two seasons. The Sox poured it on against Carlos Carrasco on Saturday on the way to a 10-3 clubbing. Sunday’s game was a bit more competitive, but the Indians could not strike through against Chicago rookie Carlos Rodon and wasted a strong Danny Salazar start in a 2-1 defeat.
The Royals (59-38) had a potential playoff preview over the weekend, as the Houston Astros came to Kansas City for three. The Astros blanked the Royals, 4-0, on Friday, but KC claimed a 2-1 walk-off win in ten innings on Saturday. The top team in the Central took the rubber match on Sunday afternoon, as a four-run first inning led the way to a 5-1 win over All-Star starter Dallas Keuchel. They have won 14 of their last 19 and have pushed their lead in the division to seven and a half games.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Volquez ended a four-game winless drought with a one-run effort over seven and two-thirds innings in his last start. He was tagged for seven runs on seven hits in his only career start in Cleveland in 2011 with Cincinnati. Anderson will make his first career start against the Royals and his first against a divisional opponent. He gave up career highs for runs (four) and hits (ten) while logging a low of two and two-thirds innings in a no-decision against Milwaukee his last time out.
Young, in his eleventh season, is one of the tallest men to play the game of baseball, currently measuring in at 6’10”. He lasted just three innings in his last start, allowing a pair of home runs and four runs to cross the plate. Bauer will look to end the month on the winning side of the ledger, bringing in a 2-2 mark and 5.55 ERA in the month of July. He is 1-1 in five starts against the Royals in his career.
Guthrie, the former Indians’ first round pick, matched a season-high eleven hits in his last outing and threw in two walks for good measure in a loss to Houston. He is 5-5 with a 5.81 ERA in his career against his former club, including two no-decisions this season. Kluber, the man with no run support, fell on the sword his last time out, allowing six runs in his eleventh loss of the season, a league high. He is 4-4 in a dozen starts against Kansas City in his career and is 0-3 against them this season.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Kansas City will air each of the three games in the series, with local radio calls being made available on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network as well as KCSP 610 in Kansas City.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT. GB WCGB STREAK
Kansas City 59-38 .608 – – W2
Minnesota 52-46 .531 7.5 – L2
Detroit 48-50 .490 11.5 4.0 L1
Chicago 46-50 .479 12.5 5.0 W4
Cleveland 45-52 .464 14.0 6.5 L4
The Indians hold a 327-311 edge over the Royals in 638 games all-time. It includes a 176-144 mark at home in Cleveland.
This year, those numbers have been irrelevant. The Indians have struggled at home, posting a 19-30 record at Progressive Field this season. On top of that, the Royals have held the advantage against the Tribe, winning five of nine contests so far. They catch the Indians reeling.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – recovery from March 2015 right elbow surgery
Nick Hagadone (RP) – 15-day disabled list (July 8) – recovery from July 2015 left elbow surgery
Nick Swisher (DH) – 15-day disabled list (June 14) – left knee inflammation; has begun rehab assignment
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right shoulder surgery; has begun rehab assignment
Tim Collins (RP) – 60-day disabled list (May 7) – recovery from March 2015 Tommy John surgery
Johnny Cueto (SP) – acquired in trade from Cincinnati (July 26)
Brian Flynn (RP) – 60-day disabled list (May 16) – left latissimus dorsi tear
Alex Gordon (LF) – 15-day disabled list (July 9) – grade 2-plus left groin strain
Jason Vargas (SP) – 15-day disabled list (July 22) – pending Tommy John surgery on left elbow
TRADE WINDS BLOWING
‘Tis the season for rumors galore, but one breeze became a gust on Sunday when the Royals made the biggest splash of the season when they traded three minor league left-handed pitchers to the Cincinnati Reds for their ace and free-agent-to-be, Johnny Cueto. He is expected to make his first start for Kansas City on Friday and may bump one of Guthrie or Young from the rotation.
The Indians, meanwhile, do not figure to be big movers and shakers at the deadline, but may part with some of the veteran contracts on the club, including the outfield platoon of David Murphy and Ryan Raburn. Murphy has been rumored to be on the Los Angeles Angels’ radar. Starting pitcher Carrasco has had his name come up, including proposed talks with the Toronto Blue Jays, but it is believed that the club will not move any of its young, lock-up talent unless “blown away” by a proposition.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
Francisco Lindor has put it all together at the plate and has looked much better in the second half as he acclimates to Major League pitching. He leads the Indians in hitting in the second half, batting .368 in nine games. He brings an active five game hitting streak into the series against the Royals.
Michael Brantley continues to help carry the team. He leads the club in many second half numbers, including doubles (five), homers (two), and RBI (nine). He is now tied with teammate Jason Kipnis and Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier for the doubles lead in baseball with 29 this season.
Eric Hosmer has picked up in the second half where he left off in the first. The All-Star first baseman is hitting .410 with two doubles, two triples, a homer, and four RBI in eleven games since the break. His All-Star teammate, Mike Moustakas, leads the club with three homers and eight RBI since the break and is hitting .286. He is tied for the homer lead with another first timer on the AL Midsummer Classic squad, Lorenzo Cain.
Guthrie joins Mike Aviles as the only two players expected to play this series who have been members of both clubs.
Guthrie was a first round pick by the Indians in 2002, but appeared in just 16 games between 2004 and 2006 with a 6.08 ERA. After being placed on waivers in January of 2007, he was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles and placed into their starting rotation, where he made 153 starts over five seasons. He was traded prior to the 2012 season to Colorado, who flipped him midseason to Kansas City.
Aviles, a seventh round pick a year later by the Royals, spent parts of four seasons at the Major League level with Kansas City and played in 301 games. He was traded to Boston at the trade deadline in 2011 and dealt to Toronto following the 2012 season as part of the compensation package for manager John Farrell. His stay with the Blue Jays was short, however, as he was traded two weeks later with Yan Gomes to Cleveland for pitcher Esmil Rogers. He should surpass his games played total with the Royals in the coming week or so, as he enters this week’s series with 298 games played in an Indians uniform.
The Indians will hit the road for the West Coast following Wednesday’s afternoon contest with the Royals and will land in Oakland to take on the Athletics for four straight. The Royals will continue their defense of first place in the division as they head north of the border to take on the Toronto Blue Jays.
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images