Whit Merrifield and the Kansas City Royals haven’t had much reason to smile of late, but the former helped the latter get back on track in the last outing.
Merrifield looks to lift the Royals (15-28) to a second straight victory for the first time since a four-game winning streak early last month when they face the Indians (26-16) on Wednesday in Cleveland.
Mired in a 2-for-34 rut during an eight-game stretch, Merrifield belted a three-run homer to highlight a two-hit performance in Kansas City’s 8-6 victory on Tuesday. The win not only evened the four-game series at one victory apiece, but it also snapped a seven-game losing streak in which the Royals had been outscored by a 51-18 margin.
“Right from the very first at-bat,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said of the determination he saw in Merrifield. “Getting down in the count, fouling off, fouling off taking close pitches. Fouling a couple more. That takes its toll on a starting pitcher and takes a toll on a pitching staff.”
Merrifield’s team-high-tying eighth homer of the season forged a tie at 3 in the third inning before he added an insurance run in the ninth after leading off the inning with a double.
The 31-year-old hopes to build off this momentum on Wednesday when he faces Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco (2-3, 3.43 ERA), against whom he is 9-for-21 (.429) with a homer and five RBIs in his career.
Carrasco followed up a two-hit performance over six scoreless innings in a 2-1 win at St. Louis on Aug. 29 by allowing one run in six frames of a no-decision versus Milwaukee on Friday.
Carrasco, 33, improved to 12-7 with a 3.86 ERA in 26 career appearances (21 starts) against Kansas City after striking out 10 batters in six innings of a 9-2 victory on July 26.
Royals left-hander Danny Duffy (2-3, 4.83 ERA) will take the mound looking to rebound from a poor outing. Duffy surrendered two homers in his second consecutive contest on Thursday and yielded six runs on seven hits over six innings in an 11-6 setback to the Chicago White Sox.
“It’s just something where I’ve got to refine my mechanics,” Duffy said. “They were all out of whack (on Thursday), and the score showed. I’m better than that.”
Duffy fell to 3-12 with a 5.42 ERA in 22 career appearances (18 starts) versus Cleveland after allowing two runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 2-0 setback on July 24.
Carlos Santana has handled Duffy well, going 16-for-38 (.421) with three homers and eight RBIs against the 31-year-old hurler. Santana belted a two-run homer in the first inning against Jakob Junis on Tuesday.
Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez could return to the lineup after missing his first start of the season Tuesday night because of a sore left thumb. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said an MRI revealed the bruise after Ramirez exited in the seventh inning of the club’s 5-2 win on Monday.
“He’s been working through it on and off for the past couple of weeks, and it just continues to be sore,” Antonetti said of Ramirez, who leads the team in homers (nine), RBIs (26) and stolen bases (nine). “We think giving him a day or two could help him feel a little bit better.”
–Field Level Media