Plenty could be written about the unpredictable and unusual schedule that the Cleveland Indians have this season. With that said, the Indians return home after a short five-game road trip for three games with the Kansas City Royals before jetting right back out of town for a much longer road trip than the recently completed one.
The Indians (18-18) salvaged an ugly road trip by taking the finale in Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon after losing a close contest on Tuesday night. Cleveland began its brief five-game roadie with three straight losses to the New York Yankees. It continued a down May for the club, as they have gone just 3-6 after ending April three games up in the win column. Despite the downward trend in play, they have remained atop the American League Central Division, holding a game and a half lead over Minnesota. The Indians took two of three from Kansas City in a previous series at Progressive Field this year in a low-scoring set that saw the two clubs combine to score just ten runs in the three contests.
The Royals (12-25) have played about as poorly as pundits expected, although May has been a bit more favorable. They are six and a half-games in back of Cleveland and well below the .500 mark, but much of that damage came over a nine-game losing streak in early April that was followed by a five-game skid later in the month. They have put up a much better 6-6 mark since that latter streak ended, thanks to their first series win of the year last weekend against Detroit.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Hammel, the 6’6” right-hander, is well travelled and a familiar face to the Indians. He is coming off of his third quality start of the season, but also his third consecutive loss for the Royals after giving up three runs on ten hits in six and two-thirds innings against Detroit on May 5. He was winless in his career against the Indians until last season, when he went 3-2 in five starts with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He made his best start of this season against the Indians as well, throwing six scoreless innings of three-hit baseball. He will look for his first career win at Progressive Field (0-4 in nine games).
Bauer was dealt his third loss of the season his last time out against the Yankees as an error and walk aided messy inning led to his undoing. He allowed just two hits in six innings of work in his six straight quality outing, but four runs (two earned) crossed on the afternoon. He walked three in total and struck out eight. He took a tough-luck loss to the Royals earlier this season, when he allowed just one run over eight innings to drop to 2-4 in his career in 11 starts against KC.
Junis has been a bright spot in a dark season for the Royals so far. The second-year right-hander has made seven starts, with five quality outings under his belt. He opened the season with a three-hit game in seven innings in a win against Detroit and followed it with seven one-hit innings against Seattle for his second win. He earned his fourth win (and third against the Tigers) in his last start, working seven innings while striking out a season-high eight batters. Home runs have been one of his few issues, as the ball has jumped out of the yard in his losses. He gave up three home runs in his loss to the Angels in mid-April and ended the month allowing five homers to the White Sox.
Clevinger threw one of his better games in his last outing, but took a no-decision against the Yankees while racking up a career-high ten strikeouts. Walks were his bigger issue, as he gave up four free passes but just one hit in seven and one-third innings of work. The 27-year-old right-hander has factored in the decision in just two of his seven starts this season, but both of those were scoreless efforts. He may welcome the sight of the Royals this weekend – he is 3-0 in six career games against them with a 2.12 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. He faced them once in April, allowing ten hits and two walks but just one run in seven and one-third innings in another no-decision.
The 29-year-old southpaw got back on track in his last start after three straight rough outings and a pair of losses. He worked five and one-third innings against Baltimore, allowing just one run (on a solo homer) and six hits in total with two walks and five strikeouts. Duffy has had problems against the Indians throughout his career, posting a 2-7 lifetime mark with a 4.09 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP in 16 games. He has not defeated the Indians since 2014. He lost his only start against them this season, allowing three runs on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts in five and two-thirds innings in April.
Home runs hurt Kluber again in his last start, as they accounted for all three runs that he allowed in six innings in a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night. The defeat ended a five-game winning streak for the right-hander. He has now given up ten homers on the year (six solo, four two-run shots), with the blasts accounting for 14 of the 17 runs that he has allowed this season. Kluber has faced the Royals 20 times in his career and has posted a 9-6 record with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 130 innings.
TV: Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all); Fox Sports Kansas City (all)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network (Cleveland); KCSP 610 (Kansas City)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Cody Anderson (P) – 60-day disabled list (2/25) – recovery from April 2017 UCL surgery
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – 10-day disabled list (4/8) – right calf strain
Nick Goody (RP) – 10-day disabled list (5/3) – right elbow inflammation
Ryan Merritt (P) – 10-day disabled list (3/26) – left knee sprain
Andrew Miller (RP) – activated from 10-day disabled list (5/11)
Tyler Olson (RP) – placed on paternity list (5/11)
Danny Salazar (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – right shoulder rotator cuff tendonitis; shut down.
Gio Urshela – traded to Toronto for cash considerations (5/9)
Justin Grimm (RP) – 10-day disabled list (4/22) – lower back stiffness
Jesse Hahn (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/6) – UCL sprain in right elbow
Nate Karns (SP) – 10-day disabled list (3/26) – right elbow inflammation
Kyle Lohse (P) – released from Triple-A Omaha (5/10)
Mike Moustakas has provided plenty of pop to the Royals lineup in his surprise return to the organization after a quiet offseason of free agent interest in the slugging third baseman. He is one of the top hitters on the club, leading the team in homers (10) and RBI (28) while ranking third in doubles (8) and batting average (.291). His RBI total is good for eighth in the American League. He has a solo homer, two singles, and two walks in 12 trips against Clevinger. He has feasted on Kluber pitching, something few can claim – he has hit .462 in 42 career plate appearances with three walks, seven doubles, a homer, and four RBI.
Others in the lineup have not been quite as successful as Moustakas against Kluber – Alcides Escobar has struck out 20 times in 56 plate appearances while hitting .182, Alex Gordon has been K’d in 19 of 48 plate appearances while hitting .146, and Salvador Perez has whiffed 13 times in 37 plate appearances with a .176 average.
Drew Butera has had strangely good results at the plate against Bauer, going 3-for-8 with three singles and two walks in ten plate appearances. Escobar is 9-for-28 (.321) with a double, a homer, and three RBI.
Perez, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Thursday with a grand slam, has had no luck with Bauer in his career, going 1-for-16 with a double and six strikeouts. Whit Merrifield is 2-for-14.
Jorge Soler has gotten a long look in the Royals outfield this season and it has paid off, as the 26-year-old has put up a .328/.437/.543 slash in 33 games of work. He leads the club with ten doubles, is second with five homers, and is third with 17 RBI. He is also the team’s top walk man with 22, but has also struck out a team-leading 32 times. His .328 average is eighth among qualified players in the AL and his .437 OBP is good for fifth. He is 3-for-5 in his career against Clevinger with two singles and a double.
Jon Jay has a triple and two walks in four plate appearances in his career against Clevinger. Escobar’s only hit in 12 trips to the plate against Clevinger was a home run.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
Francisco Lindor’s interesting week has continued in the days that have followed his selection for the American League’s Player of the Week. After the Indians series with the Brewers ended, Lindor paid up on a bet made with his old high school that if their baseball team went undefeated, he would shave his head. Videos and pictures of the event graced social media on Thursday.
Lindor comes into action this weekend with an eleven-game hitting streak active. He has hit .423 in that stretch with 22 hits, including six home runs, and 12 RBI. For the season, his average is up to .292 and he either owns or is tied for the team lead in doubles (11), homers (10), and RBI (22). He is sixth in the American League in runs scored with 28.
Jose Ramirez is tied with Lindor for the team lead in homers and RBI and is second in doubles with ten. He has a .283/.373/.572 slash at the plate, thanks to his big power and his team-leading 19 walks.
There has been plenty of talk on Indians blogs about whether or not Tyler Naquin’s numbers and efforts are to be believed and if he should be given an increased role in the lineup. He is riding a seven-game hitting streak at the plate, hitting .409 with nine hits, five runs scored, a homer, and four RBI. On the year, he has hit .329 in 29 games with two doubles, two homers, and nine runs batted in. His marks at home have been some of the best in the league – he is hitting .394 at Progressive Field through 15 games.
Michael Brantley’s contributions to the club continue to deserve mention. He has slashed .324/.360/.520 in 26 games since being activated from the disabled list with nine doubles, a triple, three homers, and 18 RBI (fifth on the club).
Some Indians have put up good numbers against Hammel in their careers. Bradley Zimmer is 4-for-9 with a homer and two RBI. Lindor is a .333 hitter in 21 plate appearances with a double, a homer, and four RBI. Edwin Encarnacion is 9-for-35 (.257), but has hit five home runs while driving in seven.
Brantley (.154), Ramirez (.083), and Yan Gomes (.077) have not been able to say the same against the big right-hander.
Current Indians have hit .333 against Junis (6-for-18). Encarnacion and Ramirez each have a pair of singles and Ramirez has reached base safely in all three trips against him.
Brandon Guyer has six hits in eleven at bats against Duffy with two doubles and a solo homer. Brantley owns a .321 average with nine hits, including a double and five RBI, against the left-hander.
Gomes is one double away from recording the 100th of his Major League career. Ninety-five of those two-base hits have come in a Cleveland uniform.
If you have followed along with Tribe Trivia this season, you know the drill by now. Three games, three trivia questions, all with answered themed around the Indians and Royals. Answers to follow Friday night’s contest in the game recap.
In 1988, the Indians and Royals completed a rare swap for the two franchises. The Indians acquired left-handed pitcher Bud Black from the Royals and sent this 30-year-old first baseman/left fielder/DH to Kansas City in return. He was coming off of his first and only All-Star appearance in 1987. He previously played in the Yankees organization and made his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs prior to coming to Cleveland and after his time with the Royals, he played for the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays.
Who am I?
This speedy outfielder with a fun name joined the Indians in 2002 from the St. Louis Cardinals. He was part of a seven-player trade with Boston three and a half years later and moved on to Kansas City in a 2008 trade. He would later return to Cleveland and helped the team make the playoffs in the last season of his 15-year career.
Who am I?
This long-time Royals catcher spent the final days of the 1984 season with the Indians. He made his way into just one game for Cleveland and delivered in improbable fashion, hitting a two-out, pinch-hit, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Indians a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins. It would be the only at bat of his Indians career, giving him a perfect 1.000/1.000/4.000 slash for his Tribe career. He returned to Kansas City following the season.
Who am I?
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
While the Royals will head home to start a six-game homestand with Tampa Bay and New York, the Indians will head back out on the road for eight games in ten days, with stops in Detroit against the Tigers, Houston to face the Astros, and Chicago to rematch the Cubs in the second interleague road series of the month.
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images