Series Preview #29: Cleveland Indians (44-38) at Kansas City Royals (38-41)

The Cleveland Indians ride their four-game winning streak into Missouri to take on the Kansas City Royals for a three-game weekend series.

The Indians (44-38) stormed into Chicago and swept away the White Sox in a four-game sweep, improving their record on their eleven-game road trip to 6-2. They split with Baltimore to start the roadie. Cleveland has won or split each of the last six series since ending their long losing skid to begin June. They finished the month 15-13.

The Royals (38-41) split a four-game series over the weekend with the Minnesota Twins, remaining in the third place in the AL Central. Kansas City trails Cleveland in the season series, 4-3, but split the two teams’ previous series at Kauffman Stadium.

Luis Mendoza and Corey Kluber will pair up in the series opener Tuesday at 8:10 PM ET. Mendoza (2-4, 4.16 ERA) held the Indians hitless through his first four innings in his last outing against Cleveland before giving up a home run to Michael Brantley. Kluber (6-5, 4.16) lost his last start in Baltimore, when he allowed six runs on eleven hits and did not make it out of the fifth.

Jeremy Guthrie will take on his former team on Wednesday as he faces left-hander Scott Kazmir. Guthrie (7-6, 4.11) earned a win against the Indians in April when he held them scoreless on six hits in six and two-thirds. Kazmir (4-4, 4.83) flirted with a no-hitter in his last start and left the game with back issues after allowing just one hit in seven innings. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.

The series will conclude Thursday with a 4th of July holiday afternoon 2:10 PM ET scheduled start. James Shields (3-6, 2.99) will take the mound for the Royals. He was 1-0 in six June starts, despite posting a 3.05 ERA for the month. Ubaldo Jimenez (6-4, 4.63) will counter for the Indians. He has a 3.10 ERA on the road, compared to a 6.82 ERA at home.

Action between the two clubs can be seen on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Kansas City and heard on either the Cleveland Indians or Kansas City Royals Radio Networks.

The Indians’ offense erupted in the Windy City, scoring 36 runs over the course of four games.

In the first game of a doubleheader Friday, the Indians picked up spot starter Trevor Bauer, who allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning, and scored 14 unanswered runs on the way to a resounding 19-10 victory. After falling behind 5-0, Cleveland scored five in the second, another six in the fourth, and three more in the fifth before the White Sox plated four of their own. By then, the damage was too extensive. Four different Indians had three hits, and Jason Kipnis reached base in his first six plate appearances before being robbed of a seventh.

The Indians completed an improbable comeback in the ninth inning, scoring four runs off of White Sox closer Addison Reed on the way to a 9-8 win. Spot starter Carlos Carrasco surrendered the lead in the sixth after the Indians gave him four first inning runs. With a three-run cushion in the ninth, Reed allowed the first three to reach before Kipnis tied the game with a sacrifice fly and Nick Swisher followed with a two-out blast to right for the go-ahead blow.

Kipnis and Swisher again played heroes as the Indians overcame a 3-1 deficit to pull out a 4-3 win on Saturday. Jimenez allowed three runs on nine hits in five innings of work. But four scoreless innings from the thin Indians bullpen gave the offense a chance to get back in the game. Kipnis hit his twelfth homer of the year, a two-run shot, in the sixth, and Swisher drove Asdrubal Cabrera in with the deciding run in the top of the eighth on a sharp single to center. Chris Perez pitched a quiet ninth for his seventh save.

Justin Masterson was at the top of his game in Sunday’s finale, throwing his third complete game shutout of the season, blanking the White Sox by a 4-0 tally. Masterson outdueled lefty Chris Sale, who was in control in the early going, in earning his tenth win of the season. He struck out eight, allowed six hits, and was aided by four double play balls. Sale struck out ten in eight innings. The Indians pulled out the win despite Kipnis, Swisher, and Michael Bourn being held out of the lineup.

Kipnis was rewarded for his stellar play this week with his second AL Player of the Week award in June. He had hits in eleven of 23 at bats and had three home runs and ten RBI in the seven games. In Friday’s doubleheader, he reached base successfully eight times, including three doubles and three walks in the opening game.

He finished the month at the top of many offensive categories in the AL, including: batting average (.419), on-base percentage (.517), and OPS (1.216). His 25 RBI trailed only slugging machine Chris Davis and his 12 doubles trailed Manny Machado, another Orioles player, by one. He trailed Adam Dunn in walks in the month by one. He was third in slugging with a .699 mark and in steals with nine. He has hit in 12 straight games and 22 of his last 23. He has reached base successfully in 33 straight games, including every game in played in June.

Cabrera has hit in each of his five games since returning from the 15-day disabled list with a quad injury. He is batting a comfortable .421 in these games.

Bourn will remain away from the team until Wednesday while on the Paternity List.

The Royals split a four gamer with the Minnesota Twins at Target Field over the weekend.

Minnesota squeezed out a 3-1 win in the opener on Thursday. Sam Deduno won his fourth game of the season, limiting the Royals to one run and five hits in seven innings. Guthrie pitched into the seventh and allowed three runs, two earned, while walking two and striking out four. The Royals’ lone run came on a solo shot from Salvador Perez in the fifth.

Kansas City scored early and often on Friday night on the way to a 9-3 victory for Shields. The Royals, one of the worst home run hitting teams in the league, knocked four out of the park in the game to give Shields much needed run support. Eric Hosmer claimed half of that total and drove in three on the night. Shields aided his own cause, allowing three runs over eight hits while striking out five in six and one-third.

The Twins tacked six runs on in the first two innings and chased starter Wade Davis from the game, winning 6-2 on Saturday. After Davis’s early exit, the Royals bullpen pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and striking out nine while issuing no free passes. Kyle Gibson earned the win in his Major League debut for the Twins. The Royals got RBI from Perez and Alcides Escobar.

The Royals held off the Twins on Sunday afternoon, 9-8, despite a late Minnesota push. Kansas City blew separate four and three run leads in the ball game, wasting six innings from Ervin Santana. David Lough broke a 7-7 tie in the top of the eighth with a home run to right and Hosmer padded the lead with a solo shot in the ninth. Royals closer Greg Holland allowed a leadoff homer to Trevor Plouffe in the bottom of the ninth, but preceded to strike out the side in order afterwards for his 17th save of the season.

Hosmer has had a sudden power surge in the last week, hitting three home runs over the weekend and five in his last ten games. His six runs batted in leads the team in that span. The lefty is batting .329 on the season against left-handed pitching.

Billy Butler is batting .435 in his last six games with a home run and five RBI. He brings an active seven-game hitting streak into the series with the Indians and hit .323 in June.

As a team, the Royals have hit 25 fewer home runs (49) than the next closest AL opponent (Twins). They lead the Miami Marlins by just two for the fewest home runs hit on the season. They are third in the AL in steals, trailing the Indians and Red Sox by one.

The Royals have the best team ERA in the AL with a 3.57 season mark. Their bullpen leads all AL bullpens with a 2.89 ERA on the year.

The Indians come home after their eleven-game road trip to take on the Detroit Tigers in a four-game wraparound series. The Royals will continue their homestand with three against the Oakland Athletics.

Photo: David Banks/Getty Images

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