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Cleveland series preview: The Battle for the Central rages on

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The Royals have a chance to regain a share of the division lead with a sweep.

Klubot Klubotting
Klubot Klubotting
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

When these teams faced each other just over a week ago, the Royals were in first and the Cleveland baseball team with a racist caricature for a mascot were 2.5 games back. After a four-game sweep, Cleveland held a 1.5 game lead. That lead has been extended to 3.0 games in the week that followed, owing mostly to the Royals' June swoon.

This time around, Cleveland comes to Kauffman with the Royals hoping to exact revenge and regain a share of the division lead. It will be no easy task, however, as twice Cleveland sends aces to the mound.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Monday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Carlos Carrasco 6 33.2 28 7 3.48 4.86 3.57 3.61
Edinson Volquez 13 78.1 64 29 4.25 3.95 4.17 4.29

With the first part of his season hampered and shortened by a hamstring injury, Carrasco has been slow to regain the dominant form that he showed in 2014 and 2015. The primary culprit in his underperformance could be his four-seam fastball, which is currently sitting 0.8 MPH slower than last year while his other offerings have remained roughly the same. His HR rates are elevated early (24.1 HR/FB%), likely owing to dumb luck and small sample sizes, and his K-rates are currently down significantly from what he has put up the past two years.

Volquez is who we think he is.

Game Two - Tuesday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Josh Tomlin 11 67.1 45 7 3.48 4.45 4.17 4.20
Chris Young 10 41.0 42 14 6.37 7.48 4.80 4.21

This will be the third time the Royals have faced Tomlin, most recently ten days prior to Tuesday's game. Tomlin will pitch to contact and hope for the best. Though he has gotten the win both times he pitched against the Royals, he only pitched well once against them. The recency of Kansas City seeing Tomlin could well work against him.

Young's turn in Chicago was skipped to have him pitching back in the friendlier confines of the K. At this point, there isn't much that could hurt in trying to get Young right again.

Game Three - Wednesday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Corey Kluber 13 88.2 87 19 3.65 2.89 3.33 3.36
Ian Kennedy 12 71.0 66 25 4.06 5.13 4.63 4.22

Klubot's K-rates have dipped a bit this season - down to 24.8% from 27.7% and 28.3% the years prior - but he is inducing softer contact this year compared to last. His .271 BABIP is actually the lowest he has enjoyed at any point in his major-league career. He has had some struggles with stranding runners, as his LOB% is just 65.7, but that might just be small-sample-size noise as well. His only start against the Royals was a dominant one that was cut short by rain. Having happened ten days earlier, the Royals will have to hope that their having seen him recently will work in their favor and that he doesn't pick up right where he left off.

Kennedy has allowed 12 earned runs in his past two starts. If his spot is suddenly a huge problem spot in the rotation, the Royals' ship might be sunk.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Rajai Davis LF 220 6 30 24 15 .251 .323 .397 .316 98
Jason Kipnis 2B 266 7 33 31 3 .267 .322 .413 .318 100
Francisco Lindor SS 268 7 40 33 10 .304 .360 .450 .348 121
Mike Napoli 1B 245 14 40 45 2 .244 .314 .493 .344 118
Carlos Santana DH 269 12 32 32 3 .231 .335 .445 .337 113
Jose Ramirez LF 207 3 30 22 7 .303 .369 .432 .348 121
Juan Uribe 3B 174 2 9 13 0 .217 .276 .299 .253 55
Yan Gomes C 179 7 16 27 0 .172 .207 .355 .239 46
Tyler Naquin RF 95 4 15 10 0 .326 .368 .539 .387 147
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Chris Gimenez C 54 2 6 3 0 .167 .241 .313 .244 49
Michael Martinez Util 39 0 6 1 0 .256 .256 .333 .254 56
Lonnie Chisenhall OF 140 2 18 12 3 .270 .331 .413 .320 101

Stats through Sunday, June 12

At this point, there aren't many surprises when it comes to the other teams in the division. Cleveland is still without the services of Michael Brantley, and with the suspended Marlon Byrd out of commission, their thin outfield depth has been put to the test. Tyler Naquin has performed nicely in his third stint in the bigs this season, perhaps enjoying the consistency afforded him by Byrd's suspension. Jose Ramirez is still hitting out of his mind while the rest of the world watches on wondering who the real Jose Ramirez is. Francisco Lindor is really good.

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