Indians look to keep rolling vs. Royals in first-half finale

MLB

The Cleveland Indians aim to continue their good fortune against the visiting Kansas City Royals on Sunday when the American League Central rivals play their final game before the All-Star break.

Cleveland dropped a 3-0 decision to Kansas City on April 5 before winning eight straight in the season series. The Indians followed up a pair of walk-off victories to begin this four-game set with a resounding 14-6 decision on Saturday.

Oscar Mercado and Cesar Hernandez each belted a three-run homer and Roberto Perez and Jose Ramirez also went deep as Cleveland recorded a season high in runs in a game. Mercado added an RBI single and was responsible for three of the team’s 17 hits to improve to 5-for-11 with four RBIs and two runs scored in the last three games.

“It’s one of those things that I’ve been telling myself just go out there and hit the ball hard,” Mercado said after his career-high-tying four-RBI performance. “I used to beat myself up a lot of over a lot of hard-hit balls and getting caught in … a mental funk. I’m trying to take the positives out of everything, every game, every at-bat.”

Hernandez’s homer was his 15th of the season, matching his career high set with the Philadelphia Phillies over 161 games during the 2018 season. Hernandez’s power display has been a welcome sight considering he is batting just .226.

“I think sometimes guys get into different grooves,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He hasn’t hit for the average he’s accustomed to, but he has driven the ball out of the ballpark. … Sometimes guys get enough at-bats it’s like, ‘Well, maybe I’m not going to hit for average, but when they make a mistake I’ll hit it out of the ballpark.'”

Andrew Benintendi also went deep among his three hits on Saturday for the Royals, who have lost 15 of their last 18 games overall and 12 in a row on the road. Benintendi is batting .316 (12-for-38) in the season series against Cleveland.

Salvador Perez belted a two-run homer on Saturday, however he exited the contest in the sixth inning with a back injury.

“His back tightened up when he made that diving play on the bunt. … We’re going to have to see how he feels (on Sunday),” Royals manager Mike Matheny said.

Indians rookie right-hander Eli Morgan (1-3, 8.44 ERA) will look to keep the ball in the park when he takes the mound on Sunday.

Morgan has struggled to do just that this season, as he was taken deep twice in his last outing and eight times overall in 21 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old allowed three runs on five hits in five innings in a 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Aug. 3.

Morgan has yet to face Kansas City in his young career.

The Royals will counter with right-hander Carlos Hernandez (1-0, 4.98), who will make his 13th appearance and first start of the season.

The 24-year-old received a no-decision against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday after permitting one run on three hits while striking out six in 3 2/3 innings.

Carlos Hernandez’s lone appearance against the Indians came in his major-league debut last season. He scattered two hits over 3 2/3 innings of a no-decision on Sept. 1, 2020.

–Field Level Media

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