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Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals series preview

Another weekend, another AL Central opponent.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians enter this weekend series coming off four-game sets against division opponents. Only one team got to play all games, though. The Royals split with the Chicago White Sox, losing their last game 8-3, while the Indians’ finale against the Detroit Tigers Thursday was rained out.

Not many people picked the Royals to win the American League Central, let alone the World Series, but I doubt anyone has expected them to be as bad as they have been in the first month of the season. Entering play Thursday, the Royals had the lowest wRC+ in the AL at 67, the third-fewest home runs with 26, and they have gotten on base just 27.4 percent of the time — worst in the AL. They have at least turned a small corner in the last week, slashing .258/.305/.429, but it’ll take a lot more than that to prevent the core that won a World Series from being broken up at the trade deadline for prospects.

Weather should be great for the entire series. Barely a cloud in the sky is expected in Kansas City over the weekend.

Pitching matchups

Friday, 8:15 p.m. ET: Jason Hammel (RHP) vs. Danny Salazar (RHP)

Jason Hammel has had some bad luck this season, but he has also walked way too many batters, including six combined over his last six innings. Hammel, in his first season with the Royals, only has had one start last six or more innings — an April 18 win against the San Francisco Giants.

Danny Salazar was slated to take the mound for the Indians on Thursday, but instead he’ll make his sixth start of the season on Friday. Will he pitch like an 11-strikeout wizard as he did back on April 12, or will he walk too many batters too soon and not be able to dig his way out of it? Flip a coin and play along.

Saturday, 4:15 p.m. ET: Jason Vargas (LHP) vs. Josh Tomlin (RHP)

Multiple injuries have kept 34-year-old Jason Vargas from pitching over the past two seasons, but he looks like he’s finally healthy and at his best in his first five outings of 2017. He carries a 1.42 ERA and 2.10 FIP over 31.2 innings, with just five walks to his name compared to 29 strikeouts. Three of those walks came in his last outing, a six-inning win against the White Sox in which he also held Chicago to just one run.

Josh Tomlin only has three walks this season and mama always told me if you don’t have anything nice to say you shouldn’t say it at all. Josh Tomlin also has a nice smile.

Sunday, 2:15 p.m. ET: Danny Duffy (LHP) vs. TBA

Danny Duffy has always had walk issues, and this year he’s issuing free bases 9.1 percent of the time. He’s walked at least two batters every single start; over his last two starts he allowed 12 earned runs over 9.2 innings.

This spot could either go to Trevor Bauer or whoever the Indians want to call up to replace Corey Kluber for a start, if they want to call up someone. Could it be Mike Clevinger?

Storylines

Indians will continue to be tested against left-handed pitching

The Indians’ right-handed lineup has been a travesty so far. They have just an 80 wRC+ against southpaws this season, and they’ve slugged .327. The biggest culprits come down to Brandon Guyer and Edwin Encarnacion, two players who normally kill lefties who have started slowly this season. Guyer probably isn’t going to slash .143/.182/.238 all season long, and Edwin has always been a slow starter. Don’t fret about the future too much, but it might be rough in this series with two soft-tossing lefties on the docket.

Time for the Indians to assert their dominance over the AL Central

Look, I’m not being a homer if I say the Indians are probably going to win the AL Central. They are the best all-around team, and it’s not even that close. They don’t have to start winning more against the division now, but only because they don’t have to do anything in May. Wouldn’t it be fun to start whipping on one of the weakest divisions in baseball (and currently one of the weakest teams in baseball) this weekend, though? I think so.

Kansas City Royals roster

FanGraphs.com

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    3
    (52 votes)
  • 51%
    2
    (73 votes)
  • 10%
    1
    (15 votes)
  • 2%
    0
    (3 votes)
143 votes total Vote Now