Tribe Wraps Up Regular Season with Four Games in KC with Royals
Bob Toth | On 27, Sep 2018
A long regular season will come to its conclusion this weekend as the Kansas City Royals host the Cleveland Indians in a four-game set from Kauffman Stadium.
The Indians (89-69) will look to get some players some rest and others a little bit of extra work as the team makes decisions on the makeup of the postseason roster while looking to head into the playoffs on a hot streak. A tough September has seen the Indians post just a 12-12 record as the team wrapped up the division early and has coasted through much of the season without a threat from the other four teams in the American League Central Division. With the exception of a 1-1 record in March, the Indians have played no worse than two games over .500 in any month of the season.
The Royals (56-102) are playing out the string after putting together one of the worst seasons in franchise history. A sweep at the hands of the Indians would match their worst season in their 50 years in existence. Kansas City made the curious choice last season at the trade deadline to not move on from players with expiring contracts, and that poor decision was reflected in some tough-to-watch play from the club this season. The few commodities left were dealt during the year, leaving a young and unproven club set to take the field on a nightly basis. The team will make its final 2018 assessments on some of the players in tow as they keep their eyes planted several years into the future.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Tomlin will make what could very well be his final appearance in an Indians uniform on Thursday in the series opener from Missouri. It will be just his ninth start of the season and his 32nd overall appearance for Tomlin after missing a chunk of the year on the disabled list and buried in the bullpen due to some lofty home run tendencies early on. In 65 2/3 innings this season, he has allowed 24 long balls. In comparison, the leader of the Indians pitching staff (Corey Kluber) has given up one more homer, but done so in 144 1/3 additional innings.
The 26-year-old Sparkman is in his second season at the Major League level after appearing in a pair of games in relief last season for the Toronto Blue Jays. He will make just his third MLB start and his first since August 21 after working in his last four appearances in relief. It will be his first career appearance against the Indians.
Clevinger will make his final start of the regular season on Friday while looking to make a case for inclusion in the starting rotation in the playoffs. The 27-year-old Sunshine has had a career year on the mound, becoming the fourth Indians hurler to eclipse 200 strikeouts in his last start. He has matched a career high with his 12 wins and his ERA is just four-hundredths ahead of his prior career best set a season ago. If he can amass six and two-thirds innings of work in his start, he will become a 200-inning pitcher for the first time in his career.
Kennedy, 33, has been bitten twice this season by a bulky left oblique, which has landed him on the disabled list for two different stints. The first one cost him just eleven days, but he re-aggravated it in his first start back on July 10, leading two nearly two more months of inactivity. He has faced the Indians just one time this season, earning a win back on April 7 with six innings of shutout four-hit baseball for his first win of the year. In his three starts since returning from the DL, he has made three straight quality starts with a pair of wins, a 1.89 ERA, and a 1.16 WHIP.
Kluber hit the magic number in his last start as he tuned up for the postseason, earning his 20th win in a season for the first time in his career. The 32-year-old has kept himself in consideration for some Cy Young votes this season, but is likely on the outside looking in after a steady season marred by some unusually high runs allowed totals in a handful of games. Saturday will mark his second start of the month against the Royals – he held them to a run on two hits with ten strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings on September 5. He has won four straight decisions and eight of his last nine while posting a 3-0 record in the month with 36 strikeouts and a 3.09 ERA in 23 1/3 innings in September.
Junis, a 26-year-old right-hander, has taken three straight no-decisions since defeating the Indians on September 3. He was sharp in that start, allowing just two hits and hitting a batter while striking out six over seven scoreless innings. Since that outing, he has made a pair of quality starts in three more outings against the AL Central, but he has suffered from five homers allowed. His start on Saturday will mark six straight starts within the division.
Carrasco will team with Trevor Bauer as each looks to prepare for the playoffs with one final trip to the mound. Carrasco is still looking for his first win in the month, posting an 0-3 record so far in five games (four starts) with a 3.62 ERA, but he has made three quality starts in that stretch. He last won on August 28, when he fired seven and two-thirds scoreless against Minnesota, and he had worked four strong innings in relief against Chicago his last time out before allowing three in the ninth to take the defeat. He has somehow avoided the Royals nearly all season, last facing them on April 6 when he allowed two runs on six hits with four strikeouts in six innings for his second win of the campaign.
Skoglund, the 6’7” 25-year-old southpaw, landed on the disabled list at the end of May with a sprained left UCL. He eventually transferred to the 60-day DL and was not activated until the beginning of the month. He was 1-5 with an ERA in the upper sixes, but has been much better since rejoining the club, posting a 1.17 ERA in his four trips the mound (three starts) since his activation. His last time out, he worked just two and one-third innings, allowing a hit against Cincinnati. He previously worked six shutout innings of three-hit baseball against Pittsburgh. It will be his first appearance against the Indians this season.
TV: Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all); Fox Sports KC (all)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network (CLE); KCSP 610 (KC)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Cody Anderson (P) – 60-day disabled list (2/25) – recovery from April 2017 UCL surgery; on rehab assignment
Lonnie Chisenhall (OF) – 60-day disabled list (7/3) – strained left calf
Erik Gonzalez (UTL) – day-to-day (9/26) – concussion protocol
Nick Goody (RP) – 60-day disabled list (5/3) – right elbow surgery
James Hoyt (RP) – 60-day disabled list (9/4) – right knee inflammation
Leonys Martin (OF) – 60-day disabled list (8/9) – non-baseball related issue
Tyler Naquin (OF) – 60-day disabled list (7/26) – right hip surgery
Danny Salazar (P) – out for season (3/26) – recovery from right shoulder exploratory surgery
Bradley Zimmer (OF) – out for season (7/21) – right shoulder labrum surgery
Cheslor Cuthbert (3B) – 60-day disabled list (5/16) – back strain
Danny Duffy (SP) – out for season (9/5) – left shoulder impingement
Jesse Hahn (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/6) – UCL sprain in right elbow; on rehab assignment
Nate Karns (SP) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – right elbow inflammation
Jorge Soler (OF) – 60-day disabled list (6/16) – fractured first metatarsal in left foot; shut down from rehab assignment
ROYALS NEWS AND NOTES
Whit Merrifield has the longest active hitting streak in the Majors, safely reaching via hit in 16 straight games. During that hot stretch at the plate, he is hitting .313 with a .382 on-base percentage, scoring 16 runs and tallying 21 hits along the way. Merrifield has appeared in 154 games for the Royals this season and leads the club with a .303 average. The multi-talented threat has 42 doubles, three triples, 12 homers, 58 RBI, and 41 stolen bases to his credit this season, but he has hit just .237 against Cleveland this season and has been held without a stolen base.
Alcides Escobar, who has not been on the field every night as had been the case over the last few years, has made the best of his opportunities when they have presented. He has hit in six straight games, hitting .409 in those half-dozen contests. In 138 games this year, he has hit .227.
Salvador Perez has hit in five straight with a homer, two RBI, and three runs scored. He is the team leader in homers this season with 27 and has driven in 78 while batting .235. He has homered three times off of Indians pitching this season while driving in a team-high nine runs.
Ryan O’Hearn has been an extra base machine in his 40 games this season, hitting nine doubles, two triples, and 12 homers on the way to a .271 average and a .639 slugging mark. He leads all Royals hitters with a .421 (8-for-19) average against Cleveland this season with three doubles, a triple, three homers, and eight RBI.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
The Indians need just three runs in their four games with the Royals to topple 800 on the year.
Yan Gomes comes into the series with a season-high nine-game hitting streak. He has hit .361 in that stretch with 13 hits (including three homers), six runs scored, and six runs driven in. The first-time All-Star backstop has put up his best season since his 2014 Silver Slugger season, hitting .267 with 26 doubles, 16 homers, and 48 RBI. His hitting streak may well continue against KC – he has hit .351 (13-for-37) against them this season with two doubles, three homers, and nine RBI in ten games.
Michael Brantley’s September success includes an active six-game hitting streak. He has hit .423 in that span with eleven hits, six runs scored, and three runs batted in. He is the team’s leading hitter this season, posting a .309 average coming into the final series of the year with 36 doubles, 17 homers, and 76 RBI. He has hit .293 (17-for-58) against the Royals in 14 contests with two doubles and two homers and is tied for the team lead in RBI against KC with 14.
Melky Cabrera’s strong second half of the season has included a six-game hitting streak coming into the series at his old home in Kansas City. He has single hits in all of those contests and has drawn three walks while also driving in three runs. He is now hitting .275 on the season with 16 doubles, six homers, and 38 RBI in 74 games. Against the Royals, he is hitting .368 (7-for-19) with three doubles and two RBI.
A big four-RBI game against Chicago on Wednesday moved Edwin Encarnacion ahead of Jose Ramirez for the team lead in RBI on the year with 105. He has just 16 doubles, but has slugged 32 homers to give the Indians three different 30-homer hitters this season (Francisco Lindor – 38; Ramirez – 37).
Yandy Diaz is 4-for-8 in four games against the Royals this season with a triple, his only career homer, and a pair of RBI. He has also drawn a pair of walks.
ON TO THE POSTSEASON!
The Indians will next play on Friday, October 5, when they start their third straight American League Division Series appearance. The host team will be the Houston Astros in the best-of-5 series that will begin at Minute Maid Park.
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images