The Cleveland Indians have a host of important players on the disabled list but look to continue to pull away in the American League Central when they host the division-rival Kansas City Royals for the middle contest of their three-game set on Saturday. The Indians took the series opener 4-0 for their 11th victory in 15 contests and maintained their 5 1/2-game lead over Minnesota while pushing the Royals seven back.
Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall and pitchers Josh Tomlin, Andrew Miller and Danny Salazar all have been on the shelf, but many others have stepped up to give Cleveland a comfortable spot in the playoff race. Mike Clevinger (2-0 lifetime versus Kansas City) will try to keep it going for the Indians when he takes the mound Saturday while the Royals counter with veteran Jason Hammel, who is 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA against Cleveland this year. Kansas City managed eight hits on Friday but stranded eight baserunners and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position to drop 1 ½ games behind Minnesota for the AL’s second wild-card spot. Eric Hosmer recorded two hits in the series opener and is 9-for-19 during a five-game hitting streak while improving his average to .386 against the Indians this year.
TV: 7:15 p.m. ET, FS1, SportsTime Ohio (Cleveland)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Royals RH Jason Hammel (6-9, 4.73 ERA) vs. Indians RH Mike Clevinger (6-5, 3.97)
Hammel has lost just once in his last eight turns and has posted four quality starts in that stretch, including an outing on Sunday in which he held Cleveland to three runs over six innings en route to victory. The 34-year-old South Carolina native, who came into the season 0-3 against the Indians, has issued just six walks and registered 31 strikeouts in his last seven starts. Edwin Encarnacion is 8-for-27 with four homers and Bradley Zimmer has gone 2-for-4 with one blast versus Hammel.
Clevinger struggled in his last two appearances after spinning seven scoreless innings at Tampa Bay, allowing two runs in 2 2/3 frames of relief at Minnesota before giving up four runs in 4 1/3 innings against Boston on Monday. The 26-year-old Floridian has registered 99 strikeouts in 88 1/3 overall frames but walked seven in as many innings over his last two trips to the mound. Clevinger beat Kansas City in his season debut on May 7 with 5 2/3 scoreless frames.
1. The Royals committed one error Friday but still have made the fewest miscues in the majors with 57 while the Indians rank second in the AL with 61.
2. Cleveland RF Jay Bruce was hitless in three at-bats Friday but is 19-for-58 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 16 games since being acquired from the New York Mets.
3. Kansas City 3B Mike Moustakas, who leads the team with 35 homers - including three against the Indians, is day-to-day with a sore knee after missing Friday’s game.
PREDICTION: Indians 7, Royals 5