Tribe Looks to Keep the Good Times Rolling in Final Series with Royals
Bob Toth | On 14, Sep 2017
The Cleveland Indians sent a very loud message to the Kansas City Royals when the two clubs met six times over two series in August. The Tribe took two of three early in the month, outscoring KC 22-5, and then swept a later set in Cleveland, putting up three straight shutouts while tallying 20 runs of their own.
The Royals will try to change that trend during a four-game weekend series with the Indians in Cleveland, but will have the daunting task of trying to stop the Indians’ 21-game winning streak first.
The Indians (90-56) head into the weekend series with the Royals with a two and a half game lead over the Houston Astros for the best record in the American League. While Cleveland comes in with a 13.5 game lead over Minnesota, one that would appear safe with a magic number of four, the Indians have not taken the foot off of the gas pedal, setting their eyes on claiming home field advantage throughout the AL’s half of the playoff bracket. They are not far behind the Dodgers for the top record in baseball, either, trailing Los Angeles by four games heading into action Thursday night.
The Royals (72-73) may be under the .500 mark after their loss to Chicago on Wednesday, but they remain close enough in the Wild Card picture to merit consideration, despite needing to get past Minnesota, Los Angeles, and Seattle just to reach the second spot. A disappointing 10-18 month of August, one in which the club was outscored by 55 runs, took them right out of the race in the American League Central just as the Indians were really getting hot on the field. The Royals have gone 7-6 in September, despite being outscored drastically, 84-67, in 13 games against Central opponents. Since the calendar turned, they have gone 4-3 against Minnesota, 2-1 against Detroit, and 1-2 against Chicago while giving up double digit scores in three of those 13 contests.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Junis has quietly put together a good season for the Royals after joining the big league roster for the first time in April. The bulk of his damage, however, has come against teams with winning percentages below the .500 mark, as he has gone 6-1 with a 3.92 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in those nine appearances while posting a 1-1 record with a 4.79 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in seven appearances against teams with winning records. He has faced the Indians once in his career (August 18) in one of a handful of relief appearances that he has made this season and was tagged for four runs on five hits in two and one-third innings.
Tomlin will look to keep the Indians’ streak alive while keeping a nice little streak of his own active. Since July 6, he has won five straight decisions in a six-start span, posting a 2.57 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP in the process. Two of the wins have come since returning from the disabled list earlier in September after missing a little over a month on the disabled list. The only start that he has not won in his recent stretch was the one in which he left hurt – after throwing four no-hit innings against Chicago on July 30. He owns a 10-5 career record against the Royals with a 3.92 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. That includes a 1-1 performance in three starts this season with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP.
Vargas started out his season strong against Cleveland, but has cooled in the second half against the Tribe. After allowing just two runs against them in his first three starts, a span of 20 2/3 innings, he has given up eight in his last nine and two-thirds innings against them to push his season numbers to 2-2 with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Despite the recent downward trend, he still has an 8-5 record against the Indians lifetime with a 4.18 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in 18 career starts. He ended a four-game losing skid on the mound his last time out, when he held the Twins to a run on four hits in five innings of work.
Bauer may be one of the best second-half surprises in baseball this season, from a starting pitching perspective. He has won nine straight decisions, going back to his second start after the All-Star break. During his winning streak (which included one relief appearance in Minnesota in August), Bauer has limited opposing hitters to a .258 average while striking out 72 and walking 19 in 64 2/3 innings. Eight of his last ten starts have been quality outings. He has faced the Royals twice this season, with one outing shortened by rain, and is 2-2 in his career with a 3.00 ERA in nine starts against them. He won his other start against them this season on August 19, working six and one-third innings of scoreless baseball while scattering seven hits.
The Indians finally got to Hammel in their last start against him on August 26, when he was making his second straight start against them. He allowed four runs on six hits over six and two-thirds innings and took the loss. He had won his previous three starts against Cleveland this season, giving up seven runs in 18 2/3 innings in three straight quality outings. In 25 1/3 innings on the season, he has given up seven homers to the Tribe, including three his last time out. Hammel had a rough go in his last start on Monday, giving up five runs on ten hits in three and one-third innings in a loss.
Carrasco has won three straight decisions and has made four straight quality starts since a tough outing against Boston on August 22. He has allowed just two earned runs since over 29 innings (0.62 ERA) and has a 0.79 WHIP in those four games. He has faced the Royals twice this season, allowing five runs on five hits in four and one-third innings in a loss in June before firing seven scoreless innings of six-hit baseball his last time against them on August 27. Saturday will give Carrasco an opportunity to improve upon a 5-4 mark at home with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP this season in 13 starts (compared to a 10-2 record with a 2.71 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 16 road outings).
Sunday, 9/17, 1:10 PM ET – TBA vs. RHP Corey Kluber (16-4, 2.44)
The Royals had not formally announced a starter for Sunday’s series and season finale with the Indians at the time of this story.
Kluber has won four straight games and made five straight quality starts for the Indians as he has made his case for Cy Young consideration all the more compelling with his incredible pitching performances all season long. Such was the case in his last start against Detroit on Tuesday, when he blanked the Tigers on five hits for his fifth complete game and third shutout of the season. Since his return from the disabled list, he has pitched like a man possessed – he is 13-2 with a 1.77 ERA, a .171 batting average against, and a 0.74 WHIP. He has struck out 202 batters alone over those 147 1/3 innings and has 243 Ks for the season. He is 26 strikeouts away from matching his career high of 269 (set in 34 starts in 2014) and currently ranks 14th for single-season strikeouts by an Indians pitcher all-time.
TV (all) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Kansas City; MLB Network (9/14); FS1 (9/16)
Radio (all) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; KCSP 610
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NEWS
Cody Anderson (SP) – out for season – right elbow surgery
Dylan Baker (P) – 60-day disabled list (9/1) – undisclosed
Michael Brantley (LF) – 10-day disabled list (8/9) – right ankle sprain
Jason Kipnis (2B) – 10-day disabled list (8/23) – right hamstring strain
Boone Logan (RP) – 60-day disabled list (7/20) – left lat muscle
Andrew Miller (RP) – activated from 10-day disabled list
Bradley Zimmer (OF) – expected to miss rest of season (9/11) – surgery on broken fourth metacarpal in left hand
Miguel Almonte (P) – 60-day disabled list (8/22) – right rotator cuff strain
Danny Duffy (SP) – 10-day disabled list (8/26) – left elbow impingement
Brian Flynn (RP) – 60-day disabled list (8/29) – left groin strain
Nate Karns (SP) – 60-day disabled list (5/24) – right extensor strain
Ian Kennedy (SP) – out indefinitely (9/8) – right shoulder fatigue
Mike Morin (RP) – claimed off waivers from Los Angeles Angels (9/12) and activated (9/13)
Joakim Soria (RP) – 10-day disabled list (8/18) – left oblique strain
Bubba Starling (OF) – 60-day disabled list (8/26) – right oblique strain
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
In what could be his final season with the Royals, Lorenzo Cain has turned it up a notch in the second half of the season. In 56 games, he has hit .341 with a .390 on-base percentage and a .463 slugging mark with eleven doubles, three triples, three homers, and 17 RBI while stealing nine bases in eleven chances.
Whit Merrifield has caught the eye of those around the league with his own good play at the plate. He is third on the club with ten homers in the second half and is second with 13 doubles. His 37 RBI in that span are also second on the team and he has picked off 15 bases in 19 opportunities.
Eric Hosmer, also playing out what could be his final days in the Kansas City organization ahead of his free agency in the offseason, has slashed .336/.419/.545 since the All-Star break. He leads the club in homers (12), RBI (43), and walks (30) in that time. His offensive outburst has continued over the last week, as he has put up a .542/.607/.792 slash in the last seven games with three doubles and a homer.
INDIANS BY THE NUMBERS
The offensive output from Indians catchers last season was at times…offensive…in the wrong sort of way. But Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez have been big contributors to the Tribe’s success over the last month. Gomes has hit .265 with four homers and 17 RBI, fifth on the club in that span. Perez has had a solid approach at the plate, hitting .348 while adding a .412 on-base percentage. Nine of his 16 hits have been for extra bases, including four doubles and five home runs. His 18 RBI, in just 15 games, trail only Francisco Lindor’s 23 and Edwin Encarnacion’s 19 over the last 30 days.
Carlos Santana is playing the part of a second half hitter quite nicely. He has hit .309 since the All-Star break with a .427 on-base percentage and a .598 slugging mark. He has 13 doubles and 13 homers since the Midsummer Classic, putting him second on the club in two-baggers (Jose Ramirez, 21) and third in homers (trailing Lindor and Encarnacion with 16).
Lindor’s incredible season has been sparked by elevated play since the All-Star break as well. He has hit .314 in 58 games since his trip to Miami with a dozen doubles, two triples, 16 homers, and 35 RBI, second on the team to Encarnacion (41). He has surpassed the franchise record for homers by a shortstop, becoming the first to ever eclipse 30 for the Tribe.
The Indians will hit the road for the last time during the regular season, heading out west for a trip down the Pacific coast, starting with three games against the Seattle Mariners before three with the Los Angeles Angels. The Royals will continue their final road trip of the season with three games in Toronto starting Tuesday before three next weekend with the Chicago White Sox and a makeup game on the following Monday in New York against the Yankees.
Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images