Series Preview #8: Cleveland Indians (8-11) at Kansas City Royals (11-8)

The first place Kansas City Royals, fresh off of a split in Detroit to end an eight-game road trip, welcome the Cleveland Indians to Kauffman Stadium for a four-game wraparound series this weekend.

The Indians are on the final leg of a road trip that featured ten scheduled games in eleven days. Cleveland fell to 6-5 on the road on the season after losing their series finale against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday afternoon.

The Indians are the last of the AL Central foes to face off against the Royals this season. Kansas City returns home for their longest home stand of the season, playing ten straight games in their friendly confines. They will play another ten-game home series in August. They are 4-2 at home this year.

The Indians and White Sox split a weather-shortened series in Chicago earlier in the week.

Cleveland escaped Monday night’s matchup with some late-inning heroics aided by costly White Sox miscues, as Justin Masterson and the Indians were victorious, 3-2. Trailing by one in the eighth inning with runners on first and second, reliever Matt Thornton committed the Sox’s 13th error in 19 games, throwing a pickoff throw between the legs of Drew Stubbs at second into center field. Both runners moved up on the play and scored on a two-out, two-run single by Asdrubal Cabrera. Masterson allowed two runs on four hits for his fourth win of the season. Chris Perez pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save.

Tuesday’s rainout pushed back scheduled starters Zach McAllister and Jose Quintana to Wednesday. In the afternoon showcase, the White Sox returned the favor with a 3-2 win over the Indians. Alex Rios hit a two-out, two-run home run in the fifth off of McAllister to push the Chicago lead to 3-0. The Indians plated a pair the following half inning on an RBI single and sacrifice fly, but Jason Kipnis was stranded at third with one out after stealing back-to-back bases. McAllister took the loss, his third, after allowing five walks and five hits in five and two-thirds.

After splitting the series with Chicago, the Indians (8-11) find themselves three games out of first place behind Kansas City heading into the series with the Royals. They are percentage points behind the White Sox for fourth place in the division.

Cabrera is battling through some tightness in his right quad. He was not in the starting lineup for Wednesday’s game. Carlos Santana also missed the game fighting flu-like symptoms. Both are considered day-to-day and are in the starting lineup for Friday’s game.

Catcher Lou Marson was activated from the disabled list to make the start against Chicago for Santana on Wednesday. Yan Gomes, who was praised for his work behind the plate calling games for the pitching staff, was returned to Triple-A Columbus.

Michael Bourn was scheduled to have the stitches removed from his lacerated right index finger on Thursday in Cleveland. He is eligible to come off of the disabled list on Tuesday.

On the farm, starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco exited a Columbus Clippers game Thursday after being hit in his pitching arm with a line drive. He was helped from the field and taken to a local hospital. He has been listed as day-to-day with a deep contusion on his right elbow/forearm. It was his third start at AAA since his demotion. He had not allowed a run in 14 2/3 innings there.

In some minor league outfield news at Cleveland’s Double-A affiliate, Akron, Delvi Cid was released and Bo Greenwell was activated.

Mark Reynolds has remained one of the hotter Indians hitters over the last week. In five games, he has a line of .375/.476/.813 with two home runs and six runs batted in. The Royals’ James Shields has had his number throughout their previous matchups and Reynolds will be glad to miss him this trip. He has just one single in ten at bats against him and has struck out six times.

Brantley is batting .357 in his last 15 plate appearances against Royals starter Ervin Santana and .294 lifetime. He hopes to use the opportunity against Santana to ignite his cool bat.

Nick Swisher has welcomed the sight of Jeremy Guthrie throughout his career. He has 13 hits in 29 at bats (.448) with eight extra base hits and nine RBI. Jason Giambi may also see some playing time against Guthrie. In ten career at bats, he has four hits (two home runs) and five runs batted in.

They have had the opposite level of success against Santana. Swisher has struck out 16 times in 38 at bats against him. Giambi has just two doubles in 18 at bats (.111) against him, but has walked five times.

While the rotation has been suspect, the bullpen has been everything it was thought to be. The staff has compiled a string of 19 consecutive innings of scoreless relief.

Like the Indians, the Kansas City Royals had Mother Nature intervene on a three-game series at Comerica Park in Detroit during the week.

After being washed out Tuesday, Wade Davis and Max Scherzer faced off in a pair of shaky performances for the starters. Davis was tagged for seven runs (three earned) in three and two-thirds innings and earned the loss in the 7-5 final. Scherzer made it five innings and got the win, but allowed five earned runs of his own on seven hits.

Just one day after their bullpen came to the rescue, the Detroit relief corp. allowed five runs in the tenth inning as the Royals split the series with the Tigers by the score of 8-3. Shields pitched eight innings and allowed three runs in the no-decision. Justin Verlander worked seven innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on eight hits. The Royals’ George Kotteras drew a bases loaded walk off of Phil Coke before reliever Darin Downs gave up a two-out grand slam to Alex Gordon, the first of his career, to blow the game open.

With the split, the Royals (11-8) remain atop the AL Central. They have a game and a half lead over both Detroit and the Minnesota Twins.

Pitchers Danny Duffy (15-day) and Felipe Paulino (60-day) are on the disabled list while recovering from Tommy John surgeries performed last season. Both pitchers are rehabbing in Arizona and could return before the All-Star break.

Lorenzo Cain is fourth in the AL in batting with a .359 start through his first 18 games of the year. In the last week, he is batting .412 (7-for-17) with a .500 on-base percentage.

Gordon is tenth with a .337 mark and is sixth in the league in hits. The left-handed hitter has been unaffected by unfavorable pitching matchups – he is batting .423 on the early season against left-handed pitchers. He has hit seven home runs and has 25 RBIs against Cleveland over the last two seasons.

He has not enjoyed Ubaldo Jimenez as so many others have of late, as he has struck out five times in 12 career at bats against him and is batting .167. He has gotten the better of Masterson though, with eleven hits in 27 at bats (.407) with five extra base hits and five runs batted in.

The Kansas City starting rotation has been very much a source of reliability early on in the season. Shields, Santana, Guthrie, and Davis all have ERAs under 4.00 and three of the four have WHIPs at or under 1.25. Shields and Santana are averaging seven innings or more per start. Three different relievers have notched saves, led by Greg Holland’s five in six chances.

As a team, the Royals have been successful where the Indians have not – driving in runners on base. They lead the AL with a .322 batting average with runners in scoring position. Gordon leads the team in these key situations with a .571 average with 14 runs batted in.

Cleveland has a 15 game advantage in the all-time series between the two clubs, 303-288. Kansas City got the better of the matchups last season, taking ten of the 18 games between the two. The Royals were 5-4 at both Kauffman Stadium and Progressive Field.


Game one starters for both clubs were pushed back to Saturday after the rainout on Friday night. Scott Kazmir (0-0, 16.20) will make his second start of the season for Cleveland in Saturday night’s 8:10 PM ET start. Despite impressive run support, he was unable to get out of the fourth inning in his first start and allowed six earned runs. Santana (2-1, 2.48) will oppose for Kansas City. His last time out, he struck out seven in seven innings for the win against Boston. He is 2-8 lifetime against Cleveland.

Masterson will star in the center of the diamond Sunday afternoon against Guthrie in the 2:10 PM ET start. Masterson (4-1, 1.85) tied a season-high with four walks and gave up his first home run of the season his last time out in a win over Chicago. Guthrie (2-0, 3.86) will start for the Royals against his former team. He has a career 6.84 ERA in six games (2-2) against the Indians in his career.

Sunday night, the teams will play game two of a day/night doubleheader to make up Friday’s postponed game at 8:10 PM ET. Corey Kluber (1-0, 1.80) will finally make his first start of the season for the Indians. He has been skipped several times already due to rainouts. Will Smith (0-0, 0.00) will make a spot start for the Royals. He will be used as the 26th man for the doubleheader. He was 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA at Triple-A this season.

Jimenez will be on the mound for Cleveland in Monday’s 8:10 PM ET start against the Royals’ Davis. Jimenez (0-2, 10.06) had a better start his last time out, allowing four runs and walking just one in five innings. He was bumped back from his original Saturday start. Davis (2-1, 3.20) allowed seven runs in a short effort and loss against Detroit in his last appearance.

All regularly scheduled games will be televised on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Kansas City. Sunday night’s second game of the doubleheader will not be televised due to a conflict with ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball regulations. Radio broadcasts throughout the series will air on the Cleveland Indians radio network and the Royals radio network.

Following the series, the Indians will return to Cleveland to begin a ten-day, nine-game homestand of their own, beginning with two games against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Royals will continue their homestand against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Cleveland and Kansas City will resume their season series on June 17th at Progressive Field.

Photo: Brian Kersey/Getty Images

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