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.
Game One - Monday, 7:15 PM CDT
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
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
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.
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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