If the Cleveland Indians had performed better in their previous series against the Texas Rangers or if the Kansas City Royals had not swept the Tampa Bay Rays, this series would be that much more important. As it is, the Indians are now playing to stay alive in the American League Central.
A sweep would mean they take the lead in the division, anything else means they would be second at best. They could fall as far as fourth, depending on how the Detroit Tigers fair against the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox over the weekend. No matter what they will not be the worst team in the division because the Minnesota Twins still exist, technically.
The Indians cannot control any of that, though. All they can do is try and win against one of the hottest teams in baseball who are coming off of a World Series Championship. No pressure.
- Thursday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Yordano Ventura (RHP)
- Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. Edinson Volquez (RHP)
- Saturday, 4:15 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Ian Kennedy (RHP)
- Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Chris Young (RHP)
The biggest story of this four-game set is obviously Carlos Carrasco returning to the Tribe since he injured his hamstring on April 24 attempting to tag first base against the Tigers. He has been on the disabled list since then, and the Indians rotation has struggled to replace him effectively. Prior to the injury, Carrasco carried a 2.45 ERA but a 4.35 FIP in four starts.
Carrasco's opponent will be Yordano Ventura, who is coming off a game in which he allowed seven runs in seven innings. He is far and away the worst starter currently in the Royals rotation and he carries a 5.17 ERA and a 5.51 FIP in his 10 starts this season.
Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin will not be quite as lucky, as they face the two best Royals starters. Edinson Volquez is having issues with walks this season, but he is still carrying a 3.74 FIP, compared to Ian Kennedy's 4.30 FIP and 3.03 ERA.
The Royals staff, as a whole, is pretty mediocre so far in 2016, and the Indians could find themselves in shootouts if any Tribe starters falter.
After this four-game set against the Royals, the Indians will leave home and not see Progressive Field again until June 17 when they host the Chicago White Sox. The Tribe begins their west-coast road trip against the Seattle Mariners then Los Angeles Angels.
Team in a box
The Royals offense are a weird bunch, as they seem to be every year. They walk a lot, but they do not score a lot, and they do not hit many extra-base hits. They do, however, hit a lot of singles. With runners in scoring, position, in particular, they are second in the American League with 88 singles in 431 plate appearances. Also with runners in scoring position, they have a .411 slugging percentage, tied for 7th in the AL.
As a team, the Royals are last in AL in home runs, but first in steals -- and they have the second-highest batting average on balls in play (.319). This team is just so damn weird; it's no wonder projection systems always have an issue giving them a good record prior to a season.
Pitching wise, the Indians should be able to take advantage of those 3.54 walks per game, especially against Yordano Ventura, who walks 5.34 batters per nine. Even some of their star bullpen arms like Wade Davis and Joakim Soria have issues with walks this season, issuing 4.43 and 3.91 walks per nine, respectively.
- MLB’s Omar Infante Problem is Back | The Ringer
As much as I hate the idea of Omar Infante being in the All-Star game, maybe him winning the fan vote would be a wake-up call to Major League Baseball -- fan votes for the entire roster are dumb. So, as far as I am concerned, #VoteOmar.
- Gordon to start throwing after Indians series | MLB
Alex Gordon, whom the Royals signed to a four-year, $18 million deal this offseason, has been sidelined with a fractured scaphoid (right wrist) since he collided with teammate Mike Moustakas last week. He will still be out for the Indians series, but could return to Kansas City soon.
- Eric Hosmer has been avoiding his yearly slump | Royals Review
Eric Hosmer's tendency to run into month-long slumps has arguably held him back from being an "elite" first baseman. He has yet to hit one of those slumps this season, so hopefully, it starts sometime over the next four days.
Kansas City Royals roster
- C: Salvador Perez
- 1B: Eric Hosmer
- 2B: Omar Infante
- SS: Alcides Escobar
- 3B: Chelsor Cuthbert
- LF: Jarrod Dyson
- CF: Lorenzo Cain
- RF: Paulo Orlando
- DH: Kendrys Morales
- C: Drew Butera
- C: Tony Cruz
- IF: Whit Merrifield
- OF: Reymond Fuentes
The slump-less Eric Hosmer has been spectacular in 2016. He leads qualified Royals batters with a 151 wRC+ and a .328/.373/.547 slash. His 10 home runs are also a team-high. Outfielder Paulo Orlando has basically been the Royals' 30-year-old version of Tyler Naquin. He has the best batting average on the Royals (.361), but he has just two walks to 21 strikeouts.
- RHP: Edinson Volquez
- LHP: Danny Duffy
- RHP: Yordano Ventura
- RHP: Ian Kennedy
- RHP: Chris Young
- LHP: Scott Alexander
- RHP: Wade Davis
- RHP: Kelvin Herrera
- RHP: Luke Hochevar
- RHP: Peter Moylan
- RHP: Joakim Soria
- RHP: Chien-Ming Wang
The bullpen has been one of the Royals' biggest strengths over their back-to-back World Series appearneces, and that has held mostly true this season. Kelvin Herrera leads the way with a 1.04 ERA and a 1.23 FIP over 26 relief innings. Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar strikeout just over a third of the batters they face, while Wade Davis is not far behind with a 27.2 strikeout rate. Davis also has a team-best 0.89 ERA, but his walk issues (12.4 BB%) puts his FIP at 2.73.
- OF: Brett Eibner, 15-day DL
- OF: Alex Gordon, 15-day DL
- RHP: Kris Medlen, 15-day DL
- LHP: Tim Collins, 15-day DL
- 3B: Mike Moustakas, 15-day DL
Two of the Royals injuries occurred in one really, really unfortunate play when Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon collided going for a foul ball.
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