For the second straight week, the Indians and Kansas City Royals will be staring each other down on the diamond, but this time, they will do so in Cleveland at Progressive Field in an important four-game set for the Tribe.
The Indians (25-15) kept pace with the first place Chicago White Sox over the weekend. The Sox hold a half-game lead over the Tribe as they prepare for a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates (13-26), while the Indians will host one of the junior circuit’s worst teams in the Royals. Cleveland took two of three from Milwaukee over the weekend, losing a little ground on Chicago, which has won four in a row.
The timing of this rematch is key for the Indians. They have outscored the Royals 29-8 this season and need every win to keep up with the teams atop the division.
The Royals (14-27) have not won a game yet in September. After winning their series opener with the Indians last Monday on the final day of August, they dropped the last two games of the set with the Tribe before suffering a four-game sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox over the weekend, extending their losing skid to six straight. Kansas City’s problem this season has been two-fold – the team has scored the second-fewest runs (157) in the American League while allowing 205 runs to score, giving the team a -48 run differential that is the fourth-worst in all of baseball.
Keller will make his sixth start of the season after missing several turns in the rotation at the beginning of the season due to the coronavirus. Since his activation on August 6, he has been a solid addition to the Royals rotation, allowing just six earned runs in 28 innings of work. His first four outings were interleague starts until his last one against the Indians on August 31 – he allowed a run on three hits with a walk and four strikeouts in six and one-third innings of work.
Plesac made a triumphant return to the Indians rotation last Tuesday against the Royals. He worked six innings, allowing just one run on four hits with six strikeouts in a well-timed pitching performance. Plesac has gone at least six innings in all four of his starts this year with four quality outings as a result. In other work this season, he is 1-0 against the White Sox with 14 scoreless inning recorded and 0-1 against the Reds after giving up three runs on four hits in seven innings of work.
Junis, 27, has already served two stints on the injured list this season with the most recent involving lower back spasms. He was activated ahead of the Royals’ last series against the Indians and started the finale in his most recent start, working four innings while allowing two earned runs on four hits in his first loss of the year. He has made more starts and appearances against the Indians than any other team, but he has had nothing to show for it, owning a lifetime 3-7 record against them in 13 games (12 starts) with a 6.13 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. He went 1-4 against Cleveland last year.
The 23-year-old McKenzie shined again in his third career start his last time out against the Royals. He went six scoreless innings, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out six to earn his second career win. He has worked six innings in two of his first three career starts, with the lone blemish on his stat sheet a four-inning outing against St. Louis on August 28, when he allowed two runs on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts in a no-decision.
The 31-year-old Duffy has stayed healthy, but his results on the mound have likely not met his expectations. His command has come and gone at times and he has allowed four runs or more in half of his appearances. His first start of the season came against the Indians in the season opener, when he allowed both Tribe runs on three hits with two strikeouts in four and one-third innings of work while suffering his first loss. In his most recent start, he was tagged for six runs on seven hits and five walks against the White Sox in a season-high six innings of work. He is 3-12 in 22 games against the Indians in his career with a 5.42 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP, including a 2-8 mark at Progressive Field.
Carrasco has been much more reliable of late after battling through some command issues in the middle of August. In his last start against Milwaukee, he walked three but limited the Brewers to just one run with seven strikeouts in a quality six innings of work. In the outing before that, he blanked the St. Louis Cardinals over six two-hit innings with two walks and six strikeouts. Carrasco earned his first win of the season against the Royals in game three of the season, giving up two runs on five hits with a walk and a season-high ten strikeouts.
Singer opened his big league career on July 25 with a good showing against the Indians, limiting them to two runs on three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. The 24-year-old first round pick in 2018 has made seven starts this season, allowing six homers and a 1.42 WHIP over 24 2/3 innings of work. He has worked no more than five and two-thirds innings in any one start this year. Singer has allowed homers in five of his seven starts.
Civale took his first no-decision of the season in his last start. In a quality outing, he worked six innings and allowed a pair of runs on five hits with an uncharacteristic three walks and six strikeouts. He has not earned a win in his last three starts. The Royals are the only AL Central team that Civale has not pitched against this season.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Delino DeShields (OF) – day-to-day – right shoulder contusion
Franchy Cordero (OF) – 60-day injured list (8/9) – broken right hamate bone
Foster Griffin (P) – 60-day injured list (7/28) – left forearm strain
Ian Kennedy (P) – 10-day injured list (8/31) – left calf strain
Mike Montgomery (P) – 60-day injured list (7/28) – strained lat
Edward Olivares (OF) – recalled from team’s alternate training site (9/3)
Salvador Perez (C) – 10-day injured list (8/18) – left eye central serous chorioretinopathy
Randy Rosario (P) – outrighted to team’s alternate training site (9/6)
Jorge Soler (OF) – day-to-day – right oblique soreness
Glenn Sparkman (P) – 60-day injured list (8/3) – right forearm strain
HEAD TO HEAD
The Indians are 4-2 against the Royals this season, completing a pair of 2-1 series against their divisional foe. They took the bookend matchups against Kansas City in Cleveland in the first series of the year, winning 2-0 and 9-2 decisions with Shane Bieber and Carrasco on the bump while losing a 3-2 game in extra innings in the middle game of three. A month later, the Royals hosted the Tribe, taking a 2-1 victory on August 31 before the Indians took the other two games by 10-1 and 5-0 finals.
FUN WITH NUMBERS
The Indians’ best offensive numbers have come against the Royals this season. As a team through six games, they have hit .273 with a .332 on-base percentage and a .439 slugging mark with ten doubles, eight homers, and 27 RBI.
Jose Ramirez went 3-for-10 over the weekend against the Brewers while hitting his team leading ninth homer of the campaign. He also drove in two runs on the shot to give him 26 RBI on the year, best on the club. He was caught stealing for the first time this season over the weekend, leaving him nine for ten stealing bases. Ramirez is hitting .348 against the Royals this season with a double, three homers, and seven RBI.
Franmil Reyes had a tough weekend, going 0-for-9 against the Brewers with three walks and three strikeouts. It dropped his team leading batting average back down to .315. He is second on the club in homers with eight and RBI with 25. He is hitting .500 (12-for-24) against the Royals this season with four doubles, a homer, and three RBI.
Francisco Lindor saw his hitting streak come to an end over the weekend, but he remains the team leader in hits with 45 in 40 games. He ranks sixth in the American League in that stat. He is hitting .296 against the Royals this season.
Cesar Hernandez is tied for the AL lead in doubles with 14. He is also among the top hitters in the clutch, hitting .407 (fourth in the AL among qualified players) with ten RBI in 27 at bats with runners in scoring position.
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
The Royals as a team have not had much luck against the Indians pitching. In the six games between the two clubs so far, Kansas City has posted a .158/.224/.234 slash with just eight runs scored. They have struck out 70 times in 202 total plate appearances.
Whit Merrifield is right behind Hernandez in hitting with runners in scoring position. He is sixth in the AL with a .364 average over 33 at bats with runners at second or third, driving in 18 runs in those opportunities. He has had a tough time with the Indians this season, hitting .136 (3-for-22).
Adalberto Mondesi, who has struggled all year long at the plate, has just two hits in 19 plate appearances (.111) against Cleveland this season with nine strikeouts. Soler, who is dealing with right oblique soreness, has struck out in ten of his 22 plate appearances against the Indians. One of his two hits against them left the yard.
Ryan O’Hearn is 0-for-9 against the Tribe with five strikeouts.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
With just over two weeks remaining in the regular season after their series with the Royals, the Indians will head back out on the road for the final time this season. Their first stop of the three-city tour will bring the club to Minnesota for a key three-game weekend set against the Twins. After a day off next Monday, the Tribe will play two in Chicago with the Cubs before heading to Detroit for four with the Tigers.
Cleveland will end the year with seven straight home games against the White Sox and Pirates.
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