The Cleveland Indians have found their groove away from home over the last week, and their recent strong play on the road may end up being the main reason they are able to claim a second straight American League Central title. The Indians eye their eighth win in nine games Saturday, when they continue their three-game weekend series against the host Kansas City Royals.
Since beginning an 11-game road trip with a loss at Tampa Bay on Aug. 10, Cleveland has outscored the opposition 48-15 while winning seven of eight. Despite watching ace Corey Kluber leave Friday’s start with a right ankle injury, the Indians had little problem pounding Kansas City 10-1 in the series opener as Jay Bruce finished 3-for-5 with two homers, five RBIs and three runs scored. The rout allowed the Indians to maintain their six-game division lead over Minnesota and widened their advantage to 6 1/2 games over the Royals, who fell one-half game behind the Twins and Los Angeles Angels for the second wild-card spot. Kansas City entered Friday having won four of five behind a resurgent offense that averaged eight runs over that span, but former Indian Brandon Moss’ second-inning homer off Kluber was the lone highlight of the night for the Royals.
TV: 7:15 p.m. ET, SportsTime Ohio (Cleveland), FSN Kansas City
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Trevor Bauer (11-8, 4.72 ERA) vs. Royals LH Jason Vargas (14-6, 3.45)
Bauer will take the mound for the third time in less than a week after a short relief outing at Minnesota on Thursday, which followed a victory in Boston three days earlier. The UCLA product allowed three runs and struck out 11 over 6 2/3 innings against the Red Sox and has yielded only six runs over his last five outings - five via solo homers. Bauer, who is 1-2 with a 3.43 ERA in eight career starts versus the Royals, worked only 1 2/3 scoreless frames in a rain-shorted start on June 4 against Kansas City.
Vargas collected only his second win in seven starts since the end of June at the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, permitting three runs and six hits over as many innings. Since winning each of his six turns in June while posting a 1.98 ERA en route to his first All-Star selection, the 34-year-old is 2-3 with a 7.08 ERA. Vargas has dominated the Indians this season, however, going 2-0 with an 0.87 ERA in three starts - including victories in back-to-back outings on May 27 and June 2.
1. Bruce is batting .406 with three home runs, four doubles and 11 RBIs since being acquired from the New York Mets on Aug. 9.
2. Kansas City placed RHP Joakim Soria on the 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain and recalled RHP Kevin McCarthy from Triple-A Omaha in a corresponding move.
3. Cleveland activated LHP Andrew Miller from the DL prior to the opener and placed OF Abraham Almonte on the DL with a strained left hamstring.
PREDICTION: Indians 5, Royals 2