Heated Battle for First Between Tribe and Royals Will Get Hot in KC Sun
Bob Toth | On 13, Jun 2016
When the Indians hosted the Royals at Progressive Field at the beginning of June, Kansas City was red hot, riding a six-game winning streak over Chicago and Tampa. They left Cleveland losers of four straight, and stumbled to four more losses over the following week before finally returning to the win column on Saturday and Sunday.
The Royals (32-30) wrapped up their horrendous road trip through Cleveland, Baltimore, and Chicago with a 2-8 record, salvaging the trip slightly by taking two of three at U.S. Cellular Field. With a lineup limited by injuries to some key contributors, their offense has taken a giant hit. They scored six runs over four games against the Indians and managed just two in their three-game set against the Orioles. Even this weekend against the White Sox, they scored just a dozen for the series. They start their seven-game homestand looking to get back on the right track, which could be easier at Kauffman Stadium, where they are 19-7 this year.
The Indians (35-27) have not let go of the top spot in the American League Central after claiming it for the second time this season. Their ten-game road trip started with a four-game split in Seattle, but they beat up on the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend in a series dominated by starting pitching and strong offensive contributions in the two wins. They will wrap up a tough stretch of the schedule, playing 20 games in 20 days, before a well-deserved day off on Thursday preceding a six-game homestand of their own. Regardless of the results this series, the Indians can return home no worse than in a tie for the Central lead, carrying a three-game lead into this week’s matchup.
Monday, 6/13, 8:15 PM ET – RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-1, 3.48 ERA) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (5-6, 4.25)
Tuesday, 6/14, 8:15 PM ET – RHP Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.48) vs. RHP Chris Young (2-6, 6.37)
Wednesday, 6/15, 8:15 PM ET – RHP Corey Kluber (6-6, 3.65) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (4-5, 4.06)
Carrasco allowed three runs against the Royals in a no-decision in his only outing against them this season. Tomlin has given up 14 hits to KC hitters in 12 1/3 innings, but has come away with a pair of wins in two starts. Kluber threw six shutout innings, walking two and striking out six in a win his only time against them this season.
Volquez has dropped both starts against Cleveland this season, allowing ten runs on 14 hits (including four home runs) in ten and two-thirds innings. Young was shelled for five runs on six hits in four and two-thirds innings in a loss during the series earlier this month. Kennedy owns the only KC win against Cleveland and is 1-1 against them this season with 12 of the club’s 44 strikeouts against Indians hitters.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Kansas City
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; KCSP 610; Royals Radio Network
Michael Brantley (LF) – 15-day disabled list (May 10) – right shoulder inflammation
Roberto Perez (C) – 60-day disabled list (May 1) – fractured right thumb
Juan Uribe (3B) – day-to-day (June 12) – testicular contusions
Tim Collins (RP) – 60-day disabled list (April 3) – recovery from April 2016 Tommy John surgery
Brett Eibner (CF) – 15-day disabled list (June 1) – left ankle sprain
Alex Gordon (LF) – 15-day disabled list (May 23) – right wrist fracture
Kris Medlen (SP) – 15-day disabled list (May 11) – right rotator cuff inflammation
Mike Minor (SP) – 60-day disabled list (March 15) – recovery from May 2015 left shoulder surgery
Mike Moustakas (3B) – 15-day disabled list (May 23) – recovery from June 2016 right knee surgery
Jason Vargas (SP) – 60-day disabled list (February 19) – recovery from August 2015 Tommy John surgery
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
With 655 games played, the Indians have a 338-317 edge over the Royals all-time. As would be expected, Kansas City has the advantage at home, going 168-153 since 1969.
This season, the advantage has been all Cleveland’s. They have won both series against the Royals at Progressive Field, winning two of three in the first week of May before sweeping the club in four straight in the first week of June. KC is averaging 2.57 runs per game, including just 1.83 runs in their losses, against Cleveland. The Indians, meanwhile, have outscored the Royals 37-18 while averaging 5.29 runs per game.
COOKING IN KC
Kendrys Morales found his stick at the plate this week, going 6-for-18 (.333) with a homer, a double, and two runs batted in. Despite the good week, he is hitting just .203 for the season with eight doubles, seven homers, and 24 RBI.
Cheslor Cuthbert, on the roster after the season-ending injury to Moustakas, hit .318 over the week in six games, hitting a double, two homers, and driving in a pair while striking out nine times. He is batting .272 this season in 30 games.
Whit Merrifield has been getting more work in at second base with the struggles of veteran Omar Infante. Merrifield hit .308 over the week with a team-high eight hits, including three doubles. He is hitting .322 in 21 games this season.
Lorenzo Cain was just 5-for-22 (.227) in the week with five hits – all singles. He walked twice, but struck out eight times. He is the team leader in strikeouts with 56. He hit .320 against the Indians in the two prior series with seven singles and a double.
Alcides Escobar appeared in all six games this week and went 3-for-26 (.115) for the Royals with three singles and five strikeouts. His average has dropped to .243 on the season. He hit .172 against Cleveland in the first seven matchups.
Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez have picked up the slack in the Royals lineup, as each hit a pair of homers during the last week. Hosmer added four singles and three RBI while drawing three walks for a .286 average and .360 on-base percentage, while Perez had five singles to go with his two solo homers for a .292 average.
Hosmer is hitting .318 for the season and is either tied for or leading the club in doubles (12), homers (12), and RBI (38). He hit .273 against Cleveland in the first seven games. Perez has a team-high three doubles off of Cleveland pitching and is hitting .650 (13-for-20) with six doubles and a homer lifetime against Tomlin.
MAKING EVERY RUN COUNT
Despite the stellar June record, the Indians offense has not lit the world on fire. As a team, the Indians are batting just .245 in the month with a .300 on-base percentage, both coming in as the third-worst marks in the American League.
Even with the low marks at the plate, Cleveland is fifth in the league in scoring in June with 56 runs in 12 games. Kansas City is tied for last in the league with just 26 in eleven contests.
The Indians have hit .281 as a team against the Royals this season.
NAPOLI HAVING NO PROBLEM REACHING BASE DAILY
Quietly, Cleveland’s Mike Napoli has put together a five-hitting streak after a four-strikeout game to start the road trip in Seattle. He had two hits in each of his last two games against his former club, the Angels, over the weekend. He has hit safely in ten of eleven games in the month of June and is hitting .310 in that stretch with a .375 OBP.
Napoli is hitting .333 against the Royals this season in seven games. Against Kansas City, he is tied for the team lead with three homers and seven RBI.
SANTANA SOCKS TWO
Indians designated hitter and first baseman Carlos Santana hit homers from both sides of the plate in Sunday’s win over the Angels. It was the second time this season that Santana has homered twice in a game. He was 5-for-12 (.417) in the series with two doubles, two homers, and five RBI, including one in each game. He surprisingly drew just one walk and has only five in June through 12 games.
Santana has hit just .138 against the Royals in seven games, but he does have a pair of homers.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Tyler Naquin has appeared against Kansas City four times and is 6-for-11 (.545) with three homers and five RBI. Jose Ramirez is hitting .389 (7-for-18) with six RBI. Francisco Lindor is the leader in the clubhouse with 14 hits off of KC pitching this season, translating into a .519 batting average. He has two doubles, a triple, two home runs, and is tied with Napoli for the team lead with seven RBI.
The Indians will finally get a day off on Thursday after playing the maximum 20 straight games allowed contractually. They will return home for a brief six-game homestand with the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays before hitting the road again to wrap up the month. The Royals will start a four-game weekend set with Detroit on Thursday.
Photo: David Banks/Getty Images