The Cleveland Indians will look to make up ground in the American League Central Division while trying to hold off the hard charging Kansas City Royals. The two teams will play a four-game set starting Thursday night from Kauffman Stadium.
Cleveland (51-50) could not ride a strong series against Detroit into the Twin Cities, as they dropped two of three to Minnesota at Target Field. After the Indians tied the game in the top of the eighth on Monday night, Bryan Shaw allowed the deciding response blast to Josh Willingham in the bottom of the frame to give the Twins a 4-3 win. The Indians offense erupted on Tuesday for eight runs, including four insurance runs in the ninth, in an 8-2 win. Their bats went silent on Wednesday, as they mustered five hits against a team of Twins relievers in a 3-1 loss.
Kansas City (50-50) gained ground on the Tribe while keeping pace with the Tigers during the week as they took two of three games from the White Sox in Chicago. The Pale Hose, behind seven strong from Chris Sale, won a 3-1 final on Monday. The Royals bounced back with a 7-1 win on Tuesday capped by a pair of home runs from Mike Moustakas. Moustakas factored in big again on Wednesday, knocking the ball free from the glove of Chicago’s catcher Tyler Flowers to score the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of a 2-1 victory.
Left-hander Danny Duffy (5-10, 2.66 ERA) will take the mound on Thursday in hopes of continuing the Indians’ struggles against southpaws. Cleveland fell to 13-18 against lefties earlier this week. Corey Kluber (10-6, 2.95) is 4-1 in eight career starts against the Royals with a 3.33 ERA and one complete game, but is just 1-1 with a 6.15 ERA in five games at Kauffman Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.
Yordano Ventura (7-8, 3.59) will make the first offering Friday night at 8:10 PM ET. The 22-year-old right-hander made his Major League debut against Cleveland last September. Josh Tomlin (5-7, 4.43) will look to get back on track, as he is 0-2 with a 6.88 ERA in July in three starts since his complete game one-hit shutout of Seattle in his final June start. While he has walked just one batter in those three games while striking out 14 in 17 innings, he has been hurt by four long balls.
Jeremy Guthrie (5-9, 4.56) will start the third game of the series for Ned Yost on Saturday night in a 7:10 PM ET start. The former Indians first round pick is 4-5 with a 5.89 ERA against his former club. The Indians have not formally announced a starter for this game at the time of this preview, but Zach McAllister (3-5, 5.28) would be the likely candidate to be recalled again from Columbus. He allowed three hits and three walks in five and one-third innings against Detroit in a no-decision his last start on July 19th.
Another lefty, Bruce Chen (2-2, 5.80) will wrap the series on Sunday afternoon at 2:10 PM ET. He has made one start and one relief appearance against Cleveland this season, earning a loss in four and one-third innings back in April. Danny Salazar (2-4, 5.12) will stay with the club and go in this contest. He is 0-2 in two starts in his career against the Royals with a 6.97 ERA, including a 0-1 record with a 6.00 ERA in Kansas City.
Fox Sports Kansas City will cover all four games of the series. Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio will cover the first two and the finale. Fox Sports 1 will broadcast Saturday’s ball game. The Cleveland Indians Radio Network and Royals Radio Network will handle all broadcasts over the airwaves.
The Indians hold a slight edge in their matchups with the Royals over the years, posting a 318-301 record in 619 contests since KC joined the AL in 1969. While the Indians are plus-34 when playing in Cleveland, the Royals have a 17-game advantage when playing in Kansas City.
This will be just the second series of the season for the Indians in Kansas City. They dropped a pair in mid-June by 9-5 and 4-1 finals. The Indians last hosted the Royals over the Fourth of July weekend, winning two of three to maintain a 5-4 edge in the season series.
Starting pitcher Justin Masterson (right knee inflammation) will pitch in another rehab assignment for Triple-A Columbus on Friday night as he inches closer to returning to the Major League club.
Center fielder Michael Bourn (left hamstring strain) joined the team in Minnesota while continuing his rehab from injury. He ran both Monday and Wednesday and hit on Tuesday while working his way back to sprinting. He remains on the 15-day disabled list and appears to be eyeing an August return.
Designated hitter Jason Giambi (left knee inflammation) and outfielder Nyjer Morgan (sprained PCL in his right knee) are on the 60-day DL.
Monday’s starter, T.J. House, was optioned to make room for infielder Jose Ramirez, who was added to the roster in the wake of the back injury suffered by Asdrubal Cabrera in Monday’s loss.
Kansas City’s disabled list is notably lighter. Luke Hochevar is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March. Jason Vargas continues his recovery from an appendectomy in July and is on the 15-day DL.
BY THE NUMBERS
Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon each have a pair of home runs off of Kluber, despite both batting under .200 in their careers against him (.160 and .182 respectively).
Moustakas has seven hits and a .389 average, including three doubles and a home run, against Kluber. He is 4-for-9 with five runs batted in against Tomlin.
Michael Brantley debunks the lefty-lefty matchups when facing Chen and Duffy. He is 11-for-21 in his career (.524) with two doubles and two RBI against Chen. He is 4-for-7 (.571) with four singles and a run batted in.
David Murphy is 3-for-8 against Chen. Switch-hitters Carlos Santana (.316 lifetime with four RBI) and Nick Swisher (.368 with seven hits and six walks) have also had good success against him.
Seven of the ten Indians players to bat against Guthrie before have homered off of him. Swisher leads the way with two blasts and eleven driven in while hitting .370. Jason Kipnis has a pair of homers and doubles while hitting .588 in 19 trips to the plate.
Thursday marks the 31st anniversary of the infamous “pine tar” incident that occurred at Yankee Stadium.
In a matchup of future Hall of Famers, Kansas City’s George Brett stepped to the plate against New York reliever Rich Gossage with two outs in the top of the ninth in a 4-3 deficit. U.L. Washington had kept the Royals’ hopes alive with a two-out single off of reliever Dale Murray, which prompted former Indians player and Yankees manager Billy Martin to go to Goose.
Brett’s blast gave the Royals a 5-4 lead, but Martin, with the encouragement of coach Don Zimmer, challenged that Brett’s bat featured more pine tar than allowed on it. Umpire Tim McClelland agreed and ruled Brett out, eliminating his two-run shot that had given the club the lead and giving baseball fans the timely image of an enraged Brett launching from the dugout and needing to be restrained at home plate.
The Royals played the game under protest and the ruling was later reversed by the AL President. The game was resumed in August, with submariner Dan Quisenberry retiring three batters in order for the save, nearly one month after the game started.
Future Indians pitcher Buddy Black was the game’s starting pitcher for the Royals and Royals manager Dick Howser spent four seasons as an Indians infielder. Former Indians outfielder Oscar Gamble was retired as a pinch hitter for the final out when the game resumed. New York pitcher George Frazier, third baseman Graig Nettles, right fielder Lou Piniella, outfielder Dave Winfield, and catcher Rick Cerone all played with Cleveland in their careers.
Saturday will mark the six year anniversary of the Indians’ acquisition of catcher/first baseman/third baseman/designated hitter/one-time left fielder Carlos Santana.
The Dodgers, in need of a third baseman with poor play at the hot corner from young options, picked off Casey Blake from the Indians during their disappointing 81-81 2008 season that saw the club finish seven and a half in back of Chicago in exchange for Santana and pitcher Jon Meloan.
Santana was in his fourth season with the Dodgers organization, having advanced to Single-A Inland Empire and was in his second full season behind the plate after working primarily as a third baseman in 2005 and third baseman/outfielder in 2006. He would spend the rest of 2008 at Kinston, 2009 in Akron, and part of 2010 in Columbus before getting the big league call.
Blake hit .251 with ten home runs and 23 RBI down the stretch for LA after hitting .289 with eleven home runs and 58 RBI with Cleveland. He would play three more seasons in Dodger blue before his career ended.
The Dodgers finished 84-78 and in first place in the NL West in 2008. They won the NLDS in a sweep over Chicago but lost 4-1 to the eventual World Series champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, in the NLCS.
The Indians will finally return home after their lengthy second half starting road trip to host the Seattle Mariners for three games after a day off on Monday. The Royals will conclude the month of July with a three-game series against Minnesota starting Tuesday before hitting the road to begin August.
Photo: AP Photo/Jim Mone
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