Four teams in the American League Central are in playoff contention, and the Kansas City Royals will try to make the task a little more difficult for one of them — the Indians — in the second game of a four-game series in Cleveland on Tuesday.
The Royals (14-28) are in last place in the division, and this series is the final one of their shortened season against the Indians (26-15), who are battling the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins for first place. Even the fourth-place Detroit Tigers have a shot at a wild card, and the Royals have six games remaining against them.
So the Royals will take the field looking to play spoiler and rebound from a 5-2 loss on Monday to the Indians and Zach Plesac, who is now 5-0 in six career starts against the Royals. Cleveland is tied for first with the White Sox with the Twins a game behind.
The Royals will send Jakob Junis (0-1, 4.32 ERA) to the mound Tuesday to face Triston McKenzie (2-0, 1.69) of the Indians. As has become much more common in 2020, both pitchers will be facing the same opponent for the second straight start.
Junis will hope for better breaks than starter Brad Keller (3-2) got on Monday night when he gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings.
“Probably the most frustrating outing of my life,” Keller said. “Some days baseball works that way, and the ball doesn’t bounce your way. It seems like I made pitches when I had to and it just squeaked through the infield or whatever. Just one of those days.”
Junis took the loss against Cleveland last Wednesday when he allowed two runs on four hits before being hit with a line drive and exiting after the fourth inning. The Indians won the game 5-0.
Junis is 2-3 with a 3.41 ERA in six career starts at Progressive Field.
McKenzie threw six shutout innings in his last outing, allowing only three hits and no walks, with six strikeouts, in that same game.
“He was the McKenzie we saw against the Tigers (in his debut, when struck out 10),” Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said about that start. “He was composed and knew what he had to do, and he executed his pitches. He didn’t fall behind in the count.”
Royals manager Mike Matheny acknowledged on Monday that he took the field with a heavy heart, mourning the passing of his friend, Hall of Fame member Lou Brock.
The Cardinals icon died Sunday, and Matheny was close with him after spending more than 12 years as a player and manager in the organization.
“The Lou Brocks of the world turned the game on its head,” Matheny said. “The stolen base numbers he was able to throw out were just mind-boggling. We’ve tried to figure out ways to eliminate those bases, but if you have somebody like that, there’s nothing (the opponent) can do. When they get on base, it’s a distraction to everybody.”
Some current players, and teams, remind him of Brock’s style of play. One of them is the Indians.
“(The Indians) all run,” he said. “This is a team that takes a base if you forget about them at all. Anybody in that lineup can do that.”
–Field Level Media