Duffy returns to mound as Royals seek series split

Danny Duffy has been on the DL for three weeks with a left elbow impingement.
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CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber, bidding for his second Cy Young Award in four years, will start for the Cleveland Indians Sunday as the Indians and Kansas City Royals play the final game of a four-game series at Progressive Field.

The Indians take the field Sunday as American League Central Division champions for the second consecutive year. They clinched the title when Minnesota fell to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday night.

After having their American League-record 22-game winning streak halted by the Royals on Friday, the Indians perhaps started another streak Saturday with an 8-4 win over the Royals.

“We had good energy. I was happy about that. It’s nice to see them go right back out there and try to be as good a team as we can be,” said Indians manager Terry Francona.

Kluber (16-4, 2.44 ERA) leads the American League in ERA, opponents’ batting average (.191), winning percentage and complete games, despite the fact that he missed most of May with a lower back strain.

Since coming off the disabled list June 1, Kluber has been nearly unbeatable. In 20 starts since then, he is 13-2 with a 1.77 ERA. In 147 1/3 innings, he has struck out 202 and walked 21. In his two losses since June 1, Kluber’s ERA was 1.72.

Kluber’s last loss came Aug. 23. In four starts since then, he is 4-0 with a 1.41 ERA.

Kluber, who has pitched complete games in three of his last four starts at Progressive Field, last pitched against the Royals on Aug. 18, a 10-1 win in which he pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up one run. In 19 career starts against Kansas City, he is 8-6 with a 3.15 ERA.

Kansas City will activate left-hander Danny Duffy off the disabled list to start Sunday’s game. Duffy has been on the DL for three weeks with a left elbow impingement. Sunday will be Duffy’s first start since Aug. 22 vs. Colorado.

In two starts against Cleveland this year, Duffy is 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA. His last start against the Indians came May 28, when he lost 10-1, giving up six runs on nine hits in four innings. In 14 career appearances against Cleveland, Duffy is 2-5 with a 4.23 ERA.

While Duffy is coming off the DL, the Royals on Sunday will be without two of their key position players, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and catcher Salvador Perez.

Cain will be given a day off Sunday to rest his legs.

“With an off-day (Monday), this is a perfect time to do it,” said Yost. “He loses one day but gets two days of rest. It’s not what I want to do. He’s battling, but he’s lost a step or two. He’s playing well, but I’d rather lose him for one game than 14.”

Perez has missed the last two games with a strained muscle in his side and is not expected to play Sunday.