Cleveland Indians baseball has been a little bit more fun to take in since the beginning of August. After the page of the calendar flipped to the last full month of summer, the Tribe has gone 22-17. They put together their second-best month of the season with a 16-12 record, and their offense woke up from a yearlong slumber to outscore opponents by a 137-102 edge in 28 games.
September has been very even for the Indians (70-71), who will look to expand on their 6-5 record in the new month while staying within striking distance of the American League Wild Card race. After winning Thursday’s ball game, 7-5, games were postponed on Friday and Saturday due to rain. The Indians split their doubleheader on Sunday, winning the opener 7-2 with seven runs in the final four innings, while they dropped a 9-2 decision in the second game after Trevor Bauer struggled mightily in the fourth and the deficit became too much to overcome.
The Indians have now scored 45 runs in the month and surrendered 46 in eleven games. They swept the Tigers in consecutive series for the first time since 2012.
Despite a ten-game lead in the AL Central, the Kansas City Royals (84-58) have not played well of late. After a 19-9 month of August, the Royals have hit the skids and hit them hard. They have already lost more games in September than they did in the entire first month of the season and are just one short of August’s output. At 4-8, they have been outscored 78-71. In their three-game series with Baltimore over the weekend, they lost 14-8 on Friday, returned the favor with a 14-6 win on Saturday, and lost the finale on Sunday, 8-2, as Johnny Cueto lost his fifth straight start.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Monday, 9/14, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Edinson Volquez (13-7, 3.49 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (12-10, 3.70)
Volquez has had his ups and downs of late, just like the rest of his teammates, but looked better in his last start, allowing just two runs over seven innings in a Royals win. He is 2-2 in five career starts against Cleveland with a 9.31 ERA, but is 1-0 in two starts this season, despite walking eleven in nine innings. Carrasco lost his last outing, a short 7-4 loss to Chicago in his first start off of the disabled list. He allowed four runs on four hits, including a pair of home runs in his second shortest start of the season. He is 4-4 with a 4.30 ERA in 14 games against KC in his career, including a 2-0 mark with a 2.57 ERA in a pair of outings this season.
Tuesday, 9/15, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Kris Medlen (3-1, 4.58) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (5-1, 2.85)
Medlen has worked his way into an injury-filled and suspect rotation after appearing in relief in his first seven games this season. As a starter, he is 2-1 with a 5.87 ERA, allowing 15 runs on 23 hits with five walks in 23 innings. He has pitched once in his career against the Indians and he made it count, throwing seven scoreless innings, allowing six hits and striking out six in a win in 2013 with the Atlanta Braves. Tomlin looks to win his sixth consecutive start since returning from the disabled list in mid-August. He is averaging over six innings per start and more than a half dozen strikeouts per outing. He is 6-3 in 15 games against the Royals in his career.
Wednesday, 9/16, 7:10 PM ET – LHP Danny Duffy (7-7, 4.14) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (12-8, 3.57)
Duffy struck out a season-high eight in a no-decision to Baltimore on Friday. He allowed two runs on three hits in the effort. He is 2-2 with a 3.46 ERA in eight career games against the Indians. Salazar has taken the decision in each of his seven career starts against the Royals, going 3-4 with a 5.40 ERA. He is 1-1 this season against them. He pitched a bit better his last time out, lasting six and one-third innings while allowing three runs on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts. With 176 strikeouts on the season, he is still within reach of the 200-K plateau.
Thursday, 9/17, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Yordano Ventura (11-8, 4.42) vs. TBD
Thursday will mark the two-year anniversary of Ventura’s Major League debut, incidentally against the Indians. The 24-year-old is 3-1 in six career starts against Cleveland with a 2.50 ERA. He is 2-1 when pitching in Cleveland. He has earned the win in seven of his last eight decisions. The Indians list Cody Anderson (4-3, 3.68) on the official website as the day’s starter, but it would appear unlikely that the young right-hander would start on short rest after pitching in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader. Corey Kluber (8-13, 3.41), who has been out with a hamstring injury, is hopeful to be ready for the game even though he is 1-3 in four starts against them this season.
TV – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Kansas City
Radio – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; KCSP 610
AL WILD CARD STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT. WCGB STRK L10
New York 78-64 .549 +3.0 W1 4-6
Texas 75-67 .528 – W1 5-5
– – – – – – – – –
Minnesota 74-68 .521 -1.0 W1 5-5
Los Angeles 72-70 .507 -3.0 L1 6-4
Cleveland 70-71 .495 -4.5 L1 6-4
Baltimore 69-73 .486 -6.0 W1 6-4
Tampa Bay 69-73 .486 -6.0 L2 3-7
Despite a 5-7 record against the Royals this season, the Indians still lead the all-time series between the two clubs, 328-313. The Royals have a 29-game advantage at home.
The Royals hold the edge in Cleveland so far this season, winning four of six. They played a late April series, with Kansas City taking two of three, and then a series the last week of July that had the same turnout. In both circumstances, the Royals won the first two games of each series.
ON THE MEND
Nick Hagadone (RP) – 60-day disabled list (July 8) – recovery from July 2015 left elbow surgery
T.J. House (SP) – 60-day disabled list (September 4) – left shoulder inflammation
Corey Kluber (SP) – day-to-day – right hamstring strain (September 4)
Carlos Moncrief (OF) – after being designated on September 4, was sent outright to Double-A Akron (September 10)
Tim Collins (RP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – recovery from March 2015 Tommy John surgery
Brian Flynn (RP) – 60-day disabled list (May 16) – left latissimus dorsi tear
Jason Vargas (SP) – 60-day disabled list (July 22) – recovery from July 2015 Tommy John surgery
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
The Indians streak of 14 consecutive home games with ten hits or more came to an end in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, the longest such streak by the club since an 18-gamer in July of 1925. It was the longest streak in the Majors this season, as well as the longest streak of its kind overall since Colorado had 15 straight in 1999 and in the AL since Boston hit ten-plus in 20 straight home games in 1950.
After 45 trips to the plate this season for Cleveland, Chris Johnson earned his first walk with the Indians in game two of Sunday’s doubleheader. He had three opposite field hits in game one of the day’s action.
Carlos Santana is 10-for-11 stealing bases this season. The theft total matches that of former base stealing threat Mike Trout, who is 10-for-18 this season, and one short of Jason Kipnis’s eleven in 19 tries this year. Michael Brantley is the team leader with 14 in 15 attempts
Speaking of Brantley, his slower start to the season has been balanced out by a solid return from a restful All-Star week. While finishing in third place in the AL Most Valuable Player vote in 2014, he hit .327 with a .385 on-base percentage, .506 slugging percentage, and .890 OPS. This season, he is hitting .317 with a .387 OBP, .496 slugging, and .883 OPS. Talk about consistency. “Dr. Smooth” is 4-for-5 in his career against Volquez.
With another good weekend effort, Francisco Lindor is hitting .351 since the All-Star break. He is four hits shy of 100 on the season. His name is firmly planted in the AL Rookie of the Year voting consideration.
Eric Hosmer is hitting .324 since the All-Star break with six homers and 37 RBI. He is a .323 career hitter at Progressive Field, including a .500 mark this season, hitting three homers and driving in nine in Cleveland.
Kendrys Morales and Mike Moustakas have each driven in 40 since the break. Morales has done it with six homers and 18 doubles and a .312 batting average while “Moose” has done it with a team-leading eleven homers since the Midsummer’s Classic. Morales is hitting .320 in Cleveland this season with eight RBI in six games. Moustakas is hitting .347 against the Indians and .370 at Progressive Field.
The Indians will start up the final chunk of their eleven-game homestand as they host the Chicago White Sox on Friday in a key three-game weekend set. The Royals will continue their pursuit of the AL Central crown as they move to the final stop on their ten-game road trip with three in Detroit against the Tigers.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images