Indians and Royals Renew Rivalry in Key Battle at Kauffman This Weekend

A lengthy eleven-game road trip has proven to be little problem for the Cleveland Indians as they return to Kauffman Stadium for a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals this weekend.

It will be a clash of the top two clubs in the American League Central, as the Royals (61-59) have slipped a half-game in front of the Minnesota Twins for the second spot in the division. After ignoring any urges to sell at the deadline, the Royals instead attempted to bulk up the roster, adding to the outfield, bullpen, and starting rotation. They have hung around the Wild Card race, trailing the second spot by a half game going into action on Friday, and have kept close enough in the AL Central to keep that divisional battle alive and well. A big weekend for the club could cut the gap significantly.

The Indians (66-53) saw their six-game winning streak come to an end on Thursday night, but the club is still riding a wave of strong performances on the road. After dropping the first game of their long roadie in Tampa, they won three straight from the Rays, took a one-game makeup date in Boston with the Red Sox, and defeated the Twins in the opener on Tuesday and in game one of a doubleheader on Thursday. The Indians will now look to expand on their divisional lead, currently sitting at five and a half games over the Royals.

Kluber - Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Kluber – Brian Blanco/Getty Images

PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES

Friday, 8/18, 8:15 PM ET – RHP Corey Kluber (11-3, 2.71 ERA) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (4-8, 4.80)

Kluber has made it a point to remind the league that he is one of its top pitchers and he did so again his last time out against the Tampa Bay Rays. He worked seven innings, struck out nine, and gave up just three runs in another quality effort while winning his third straight game in August. Since his return from the disabled list, he is 8-1 with a 1.85 ERA, a .166 batting average against, and has struck out 151 batters in 102 1/3 innings of work over 14 starts. He owns a 7-6 record against the Royals in his career, but has not faced them in 2017 after going 2-1 in four starts last season.

Kennedy is looking for his first win since July 26 in Detroit. He has lost a pair and took a no-decision his last time out despite making a quality start. The 32-year-old right-hander has been brutal in Kansas City, posting an 0-5 record with a 5.43 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in ten home starts there this season. He has had a tough time with the Indians in the last two seasons and has a 2-4 record with a 5.37 ERA in nine career starts against them. He earned all those decisions last season in six starts and was hit for four runs on three hits in five innings in a no-decision earlier this season.

Saturday, 8/19, 7:15 PM ET – RHP Trevor Bauer (11-8, 4.72) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (14-6, 3.45)

Just two days after making a rare relief appearance in the Indians’ 4-2 loss on Thursday night, Bauer will be back on the mound in a starting role as he takes on Vargas and the Royals. He won his last start, striking out eleven Red Sox hitters over six and two-thirds innings while allowing three runs, all on solo homers. He has not lost since July 16 and is 4-1 since the All-Star break. He has struggled on the road this year, posting a 4-5 record with a 6.23 ERA in ten starts. He is 1-2 in eight career starts against the Royals with a 3.43 ERA. His start earlier this season was shortened by rain after just an inning and two-thirds.

Vargas got back on the winning track his last time out, making a quality start against the Chicago White Sox to win his 14th game of the year. The sight of the Tribe will likely be a pleasing one for the left-hander. He is 8-3 in 16 career starts against Cleveland. This season, he has won two of his three outings and threw a complete game shutout in one of them. While he has allowed 20 hits and five walks over 20 2/3 innings against them, he has limited the Indians to just two runs on the season (0.87 ERA). Vargas has equal 7-3 records at home and on the road this season.

Sunday, 8/20, 2:15 PM ET – RHP Danny Salazar (5-5, 3.92) vs. RHP Jason Hammel (5-9, 4.74)

Salazar has continued to excel on the mound for the Tribe since returning from the disabled list. In five starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.39 ERA and a .161 batting average against while striking out 46 batters over 32 1/3 innings. He made it three straight starts in August with just one run surrendered as he gave up three hits and did not walk a batter while striking out ten Twins in a win on August 15. Four of his five wins this season have come on the road. He has faced the Royals more than any other team in his career and has a 7-7 record to show for it. This season, he is 0-2 in three games (two starts) with a 4.63 ERA and a 2.06 WHIP.

The Royals have had a hard time winning when Hammel is on the mound at the start of the game, as they are just 7-17 when that happens. The right-hander dodged a defeat his last time out, instead taking a no-decision despite giving up three home runs to the Oakland Athletics in six innings of work. Four of his last six outings have ended in no-decisions and the Royals have lost each of the last three. While his numbers overall have needed some improvement, he has fared extremely well against the Indians, winning both starts against them in 2017. He has allowed four runs on eight hits with two walks and 13 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings (2.84 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP).

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TV (all) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Kansas City
Radio (all) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; KCSP 610

TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NEWS

Cleveland:
Abraham Almonte – 10-day disabled list (8/18) – left hamstring strain
Cody Anderson
 (SP) – out for season – right elbow surgery
Michael Brantley (LF) – 10-day disabled list (8/9) – right ankle sprain
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – 10-day disabled list (7/9) – right calf strain; on rehab assignment
Boone Logan (RP) – 60-day disabled list (7/20) – left lat muscle
Ryan Merritt (SP) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (8/18)
Andrew Miller (RP) – activated from 10-day disabled list (8/18)
Daniel Robertson (UTL) – signed to a minor league contract (8/15)
Josh Tomlin (SP) – 10-day disabled list (7/31) – left hamstring

Kansas City:
Trevor Cahill (SP) – 10-day disabled list (8/10) – right shoulder impingement
Nate Carns (SP) – out for season – recovery from July 2017 rib surgery
Paulo Orlando (OF) – 60-day disabled list (5/18) – fractured shin; on rehab assignment
Salvador Perez (C) – 10-day disabled list (8/5) – right intercostal strain
Joakim Soria (RP) – 10-day disabled list (8/16) – left oblique strain

AL CENTRAL STANDINGS

Team Record Win % GB Streak
 Cleveland  66-53  .555  –  L1
 Kansas City  61-59  .508  5.5  W1
 Minnesota  60-59  .504  6.0  W1
 Detroit  53-67  .442  13.5  L4
 Chicago  45-73  .381  20.5  L5

 

Hosmer - Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Hosmer – Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

CRUNCHING THE ROYALS’ NUMBERS

Several years in the AL Central have given Melky Cabrera plenty of opportunities against Kluber. He owns a .472 lifetime batting average/on-base percentage with 17 hits in 36 plate appearances. Of those hits, five are doubles and one is a triple. He has never walked off of him. Cabrera also has two doubles and two homers against Bauer, but has hit only .200 against him.

Mike Moustakas has followed up his trip to Miami with a good month since the break. He is hitting .320 with a team-high ten homers and is tied for second on the club in that span with 23 RBI (joining Whit Merrifield). He has six doubles and a homer against Kluber in his career while hitting .459.

Eric Hosmer leads the Royals in second half RBI with 26. He has three homers and 13 RBI off of Kluber (both the most on the club) while hitting .280. He has hit .333 against Bauer with a homer and three RBI. He has three homers, five doubles, and eight RBI against Salazar in his career while hitting .406.

Lorenzo Cain has ten hits in 30 plate appearances against Salazar, but all ten hits are singles. He has picked it up for the Royals in the second half, batting .341 with seven doubles, two homers, and eight stolen bases.

Alex Gordon has hit just .167 against Bauer in his career, but with five walks, owns a .444 lifetime on-base percentage off of him. He has struck out in 17 of his 37 career plate appearances against Salazar and all six hits he has recorded while hitting .182 have been singles.

INDIANS BY THE NUMBERS

Jose Ramirez has hit .313 in his career against Kennedy with three doubles, a homer, and two RBI, but he was not expected to play on Friday against him after being hit in the right forearm by a pitch in game one of Thursday’s doubleheader.

Edwin Encarnacion has a pair of doubles and two homers against Vargas while driving in five runs against him. He has walked in eight of his 36 plate appearances against him. Encarnacion has taken Hammel deep four times in his career while batting .333. He leads the club in second half homers with nine and has driven in a team-high 23 runs in those 32 games.

Jay Bruce has acclimated quickly to the Tribe lineup. In eight games with the club after being acquired in a trade with the New York Mets, the veteran right fielder has hit .370 with a .469 on-base percentage with four doubles, a homer, six RBI, and five walks. He has three doubles and a homer against Hammel in 24 trips to the box.

Carlos Santana has been a much more valuable weapon in the Indians lineup since the All-Star break, hitting .279 with a .389 OBP. In that span of 31 games, he has five doubles, a triple, eight homers, and 17 RBI while walking 19 times. He has been all or nothing against Hammel in his career – he is 1-for-10 with a walk and a solo homer but has struck out three times.

Jason Kipnis has been surprisingly successful against the left-hander Vargas. He has ten hits in 34 plate appearances (.313 average) with two doubles, a homer, and six runs batted in.

I’M COMING HOME, COMING HOME

After more than a week and a half on the road, the Indians will find their way back to northeast Ohio, but they will not have time to rest as the Boston Red Sox come to town for a key four-game series against the top club in the American League East. The Royals will take Monday off, their second day off in a five-day span, before hosting the Colorado Rockies for three straight.

The two clubs will not be away from each other for long – the Royals will come to Cleveland on Friday for a three-game series in the second consecutive weekend they will spend together.

Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

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