The Cleveland Indians make their first trip of the year and their second trip to Missouri as they wrap up their road trip with a three-game series in Kansas City Royals.
The Indians (45-37) have had a tough start to their road trip, going 2-4 with an offense that was missing in action until the series finale in Oakland on Sunday, when the team used 13 extra base hits (including 11 doubles) to trounce the A’s by a 15-3 final. Cleveland is 25-13 against the AL Central this season, including a 4-2 mark against the Royals earlier this season in a pair of series at Progressive Field. The Tribe comes into the series with a nine-game lead in the division, the biggest advantage by any division leader in baseball.
Things may actually be going worse for the Royals (25-58) than even expected. They have already moved outfielder Jon Jay and closer Kelvin Herrera and find themselves just one game better than the worst team in MLB, the 24-59 Baltimore Orioles. Kansas City is 20.5 games behind the Tribe in the Central and are in the midst of a 5-22 stretch since the beginning of June. The Royals barely survived a 7-21 start to the season by the end of April, rebounding with a better 13-15 stretch in May, but they have been outscored 137-58 during this most recent 27-game stretch of futility.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
The 32-year-old Kluber had a rare rough start his last time out. In his third interleague start of the year, he was tagged for six runs on six hits (including a pair of home runs) in just one and two-thirds innings as he steadily missed up in the zone to the St. Louis Cardinals. He has allowed ten runs in his last three starts, something that he had done in his previous seven starts combined. He shut down the Royals in his only start against them earlier this season, allowing two unearned runs on eight hits in seven innings on May 13 to earn his sixth win of the year at the time. It will be his 22nd career start against the Royals – he is 10-6 with a 2.82 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP with three complete games.
Junis has suffered through a tough stretch on the mound, losing each of his last six starts. He has given up eleven homers in 35 innings in that span while posting a 6.69 ERA and letting opposing hitters bat .287 against him. Ten of those homers have come in the last four games, including three in his loss to Milwaukee on June 26. He allowed four runs on six hits in five and two-thirds innings in a loss against the Indians on May 12. He has a 5.93 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP against Cleveland in 13 2/3 career innings.
The 23-year-old right-handed Bieber won his third straight start his last time out, helping the Indians avoid a sweep against the Cardinals with six innings of one-run baseball. It will be his fourth career start against the AL Central and his first against the Royals after a pair of outings against the Twins and one with the Tigers.
Duffy, 29, has been one of the better Royals pitchers this season. When he has been on, he has been effective, making eight starts of one run or less. He has made five quality starts in his last seven outings. Those good starts have not come against Cleveland this season or in his career, as he has taken a pair of losses and allowed a dozen runs in nine innings of work with eight walks this season and is 2-8 in his career with a 5.06 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 17 career games against Cleveland.
Bauer continued to make his case for All-Star consideration despite taking a loss in the series opener with Oakland on Friday. He was charged with two runs on six hits in six and two-thirds innings, but his teammates could get nothing going on the offensive side of the ball. It wrapped up his fifth straight quality start, but left him with just a 3-3 record in his six June starts despite a 2.18 ERA and a .203 batting average against. He is 2-4 in his career in 12 starts against the Royals with a 3.39 ERA and is 0-1 this season in a pair of outings.
Kennedy will look to get back on track after leaving his last start on June 30 with left side tightness after five innings. He had allowed three runs on three hits (including two homers), but got just one run of support in the loss. He has not won since his second start of the season, which just happened to be six shutout innings of four-hit baseball against the Indians on April 7. Since that start, he has taken the mound 15 times, lost eight times, and failed to post a winning decision while the Royals have won just two of those contests. Kansas City has scored three runs or less for him in his last eight starts.
TV (all): Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports KC
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
Carlos Carrasco (SP) – 10-day disabled list (6/17) – right elbow contusion; expected to be activated this week
Nick Goody (RP) – transferred to 60-day disabled list (5/31) – right elbow inflammation (since 5/3)
Evan Marshall (RP) – 10-day disabled list (6/19) – right elbow inflammation
Ryan Merritt (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – left knee sprain; on rehab assignment
Andrew Miller (RP) – 10-day disabled list (5/26) – right knee inflammation
Shawn Morimando (SP) – released (7/1)
Tyler Olson (RP) – 10-day disabled list (6/17) – left latissimus dorsi strain
Adam Plutko (SP) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (7/1)
Marc Rzepczynski (RP) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (7/1)
Danny Salazar (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – exploratory right shoulder surgery
Blaine Boyer (RP) – 10-day disabled list (5/30) – right lower back strain
Cheslor Cuthbert (3B) – 10-day disabled list (5/16) – back spasms
Justin Grimm (P) – 10-day disabled list (6/24) – right shoulder impingement
Jesse Hahn (SP) – 60-day disabled list (3/6) – UCL sprain in right elbow
Nate Karns (SP) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – right elbow inflammation
Eric Skoglund (SP) – 10-day disabled list (5/26) – UCL sprain in left elbow
Jorge Soler (OF) – 10-day disabled list (6/17) – fractured first metatarsal in left foot
ROYALS STATS AND NOTES
The Royals come into the series with the fewest homers (66) and RBI (271) in all of baseball.
Lucas Duda banged around the Indians during the first two series of the year against them. He hit .320 with three doubles, a homer, and three RBI. On the year, Duda is slashing .243/.310/.388 with seven doubles, five homers, and 22 RBI. He missed more than a month while on the disabled list dealing with right foot plantar fasciitis.
Whit Merrifield put up good numbers against the Indians with a strong showing in his six early games against Cleveland. He hit .304 with two doubles. He is the top qualified hitter on the Royals roster at present, bringing a .289 average with a .360 on-base percentage into the series with 23 doubles, four homers, and 24 RBI. He is the team leader in stolen bases with 16, a dozen more than his next closest teammate.
Mike Moustakas is the clubhouse leader in homers and RBI for the Royals this season with 16 and 53, respectively. He hit .273 during the earlier series with the Indians with a pair of RBI. He could be a candidate to move at the deadline, as he could provide some pop to a team looking for some third base help. In 105 career games against Cleveland, he has hit .257 with 27 doubles, eleven homers, and 48 RBI.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
Francisco Lindor beat up on the Royals during the two previous series this season with Kansas City. He went 10-for-21 (.476) at the plate with four doubles, two homers, and three RBI. Lindor hit his 21st homer of the season on Sunday as he continues to set sights on his career-best set a year ago. On the year, he is slashing .296/.372/.564 with a team-leading 27 doubles and 48 RBI. He is third on the team with ten stolen bases.
Michael Brantley has been a scoring machine against the Royals in his six games against them this season. He is 8-for-25 (.320) against them with a double, two homers, and 11 RBI. Brantley is the team leader among qualified players with a .308 average this season.
Yan Gomes put up strong numbers against the Royals in his four starts against them this season. He hit .333 with five hits, including a double and two homers, while driving in five. He has pushed his season average up to .248 and needs just one home run to become the sixth member of the team to reach double digits.
Jose Ramirez leads the Tribe with 24 home runs. He is second on the club with 22 doubles, 55 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. He remains the American League leader in voting at third base for the All-Star Game.
HEAD TO THE LAND
The Indians will enjoy an off day on Thursday before kicking off a ten-game homestand as they welcome Oakland, Cincinnati, and the New York Yankees into Cleveland. The Royals will host the Boston Red Sox in a three-game series after an off day of their own on Thursday.
The Indians and Royals will not meet again until the final week of August, kicking off three series in the final five weeks of the season against each other.
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images