Series Preview #25: Kansas City Royals (33-34) at Cleveland Indians (34-34)

A battle for second place in the American League Central will take place at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario Streets this week as the Cleveland Indians welcome the red-hot rival Royals of Kansas City into town for a three-game series.

The Royals (33-34) come into town on a very good streak and trailing the Indians by just one-half game in the division. They have won all four series played entirely in the month of June and have an 11-4 record for the month. They have put together winning streaks of six and three games in the last two weeks.

The Indians (34-34) have now won back-to-back series for the first time since early May, taking series against two high quality opponents, the Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals. Cleveland owns a 305-290 advantage in matchups with Kansas City all-time, dating back to the Royals’ inception in 1969.

Carlos Carrasco (0-2, 15.26 ERA) will take the bump in his first game back on Monday evening at 7:05 PM ET after completing his eight-game suspension for throwing at the head of Kevin Youkilis. James Shields (2-6, 2.79) will make his first start of the season against the Indians.  He has a lifetime mark of 1-5 versus Cleveland with a 3.99 ERA in nine starts.

Ubaldo Jimenez (5-4, 4.79) will start game two for Cleveland against Ervin Santana (5-5, 2.74). Jimenez is 2-1 in June and earned the win his last time out, despite lasting just five innings against Texas. Santana is 3-8 in his career against Cleveland and just 1-4 at Progressive Field. That one win was his no hitter in 2011. Tuesday’s start is scheduled for a 7:05 PM ET first pitch.

Justin Masterson (8-5, 3.52) and Luis Mendoza (2-3, 4.08) will oppose one another in Wednesday’s 7:05 PM ET start. Masterson earned a no-decision on Friday night, even though he allowed just one run and two hits over seven innings against Washington. Mendoza has allowed just two runs in his last 13 innings and earned the win Friday night at Tampa Bay.

Cleveland broadcasts of all three games of the series will appear on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network. Kansas City broadcasts will air on Fox Sports Kansas City and 610 Sports Radio-KCSP, one of the Royals Radio Network affiliates.

The Royals head to Cleveland hot off of taking three of four from the Rays in Tampa Bay over the weekend.

Kansas City slugged Jeremy Hellickson for eight earned runs in five and two-thirds innings on Thursday night as the Royals defeated the Rays, 10-1. Santana allowed just one unearned run in seven and two-thirds innings on the night. KC got the second home runs of the season for both Elliot Johnson and Eric Hosmer.

The Royals won on Friday night by a 7-2 final over the Rays. They received a strong performance on the mound from Mendoza, who allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings of work. They handed Matt Moore his third consecutive loss since starting the season 8-0.

The Rays won game three by a 5-3 final. Rays starter Alex Cobb left the game in the fifth inning after being struck in the right ear by a line drive. Jeremy Guthrie took the loss for the Royals. He allowed three home runs in seven innings of work on the day. Salvador Perez hit his third home run of the season in the eighth inning.

The Royals claimed the series on Sunday by defeating former Indians starter Roberto Hernandez by a 5-3 final. Wade Davis earned win number four on the season, pitching six innings and allowing two earned runs on five hits. Four different relievers combined to allow one run and two hits in the final three frames. Greg Holland allowed that run, a home run off of the bat of Jose Lobaton in the ninth inning, but still earned his 14th save of the season.

Billy Butler leads the Royals in hitting in June with a .327 batting average and .429 on-base percentage. He has six hits in 13 at bats, including a pair of home runs and four runs batted in, against Carrasco.

Several other Royals have hit Carrasco hard in his brief career. As a roster, the team has a combined .333 batting average against him. Hosmer leads the way with two hits, both for extra bases, in three at bats. He also has five hits, two of which left the yard, in eleven at bats against Jimenez.

Alex Gordon has a .400 mark against Masterson with three doubles, a triple, a home run, and five runs batted in over 32 plate appearances.

The Royals, as a team, are dead last in the American League in home runs hit on the season with 37. They trail the next closest AL team, the Minnesota Twins, by 19. They lead the Miami Marlins for the bottom spot in all of baseball by just three long balls.

Outfielder Jarrod Dyson is on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right ankle. He began a rehab assignment on June 6th.

Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino have begun minor league rehab assignments. Both have been on the 60-day disabled list while recovering from Tommy John surgeries.

The Indians won their second consecutive series, defeating a strong pitching trio sent at them by the Washington Nationals over the weekend.

A pitching duel broke out on Friday night at Progressive Field, as Justin Masterson and Gio Gonzalez faced off. Walk off magic ensued, as the Indians raced home with a safe slide from Drew Stubbs to give the team a 2-1 victory. Washington scored its only run in the top of the third on a wild pitch from Masterson. Ryan Raburn got the run back in the bottom of the fourth, delivering his third career home run off of Gonzalez. Stubbs led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, advanced to third on a single by Michael Bourn, and scored on a hard hit ground ball to first, beating the throw from Adam LaRoche.

Scott Kazmir was unable to work out of the third inning but, despite doing damage against Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann and taking a 6-5 lead after falling in an early five run hole, the Indians bullpen could not hold the lead as the Nationals prevailed 7-6 on Saturday night. Kazmir and the backend of the bullpen, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano, combined to allow five solo home runs, including the game winning shot off of Pestano in the top of the ninth with two outs. Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds hit back-to-back home runs to lead the comeback after the Indians trailed 5-0.

Against another one of the up-and-coming pitchers in the National League, Corey Kluber and Pestano combined to pitch the Indians’ ninth shutout of the season, defeating Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals, 2-0. The Indians manufactured a run in the fifth, as Jason Kipnis walked, stole second, moved to third on a throwing error, and scored on the team’s first hit of the game, an RBI single to center by Carlos Santana. Kipnis added a sacrifice fly in the eighth for insurance. Kluber worked eight innings and struck out eight.

Kipnis is swinging a strong bat. He has hit successfully in ten straight games and has driven in a run in each of the last four. He is batting .432 over the course of his hitting streak with five multi-hit games. He has reached base safely via hit or walk in every game in the month of June and 19 straight overall. He has reached base in three of his four plate appearances against Shields and is 5-for-14 against Santana.

The bat of the Indians’ Santana has picked up over the last week. He is batting .333 with a home run and five driven in.

Raburn has three home runs and five runs batted in over his last six games.

Reynolds and Jason Giambi have been unsuccessful against Shields in their careers. Reynolds is 1-for-10 with six strikeouts, while Giambi is 0-for-13 with four Ks.

The Indians lead the AL in two-out RBI with 138.

First baseman Nick Swisher is expected to rest his sore left shoulder for at least a couple of games. He has been experiencing discomfort with it throughout the season and was noticeably pained after a long swing during the games over the weekend.

Closer Chris Perez began a rehab assignment on Sunday at Single-A Lake County. He could rejoin the team shortly, pending how he feels following his trip back to the mound.

The Indians will wrap up their homestand with a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins this weekend. The Royals will return home for five games, three with the Chicago White Sox and a pair with the Atlanta Braves.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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