Royals-Indians Preview

When the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals opened a
four-game series last week, they were two of baseball’s hottest
teams. Now, each hopes to bounce back at the other’s expense after
being swept over the weekend.

Indians right-hander Justin Masterson looks to remain perfect as
he faces Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar for the second time in six
days Tuesday night to open a three-game set in Cleveland.

The Indians began last week with the AL’s best record and the
Royals were tied for second-best in the league heading into their
series in Kansas City. The Central counterparts split four tight
games, one decided in extra innings and two by one run. The other –
a 7-5 Cleveland victory Wednesday – featured this matchup’s
starters.

Masterson (4-0, 1.71 ERA) had another strong outing, allowing
two runs in the first inning but none over the next five to earn
the win. He’s given up five runs and no homers in 26 1-3 innings,
joining the Los Angeles Angels’ Jered Weaver as the only pitchers
to win their first four starts of the season.

Hochevar (2-2, 5.12) retired the first 15 Cleveland batters but
ended up allowing a season-high six runs in six-plus innings,
losing for the first time since opening day.

He’s moving up in the rotation to take Sean O’Sullivan’s usual
spot, a decision manager Ned Yost made to give his top four
starters more innings.

“I like to get my guys through the first month on a regular
rotation,” Yost told the team’s official website. “I like to keep
the first four starters in a five-man schedule, it keeps them
sharper the first month. They’re all healthy, they’re all strong. I
try to sharpen them up as much as I can. Then I look at the second
month and give them days here and there. But the more they pitch,
the sharper they’re going to be.”

Both teams have struggled since the previous series. Cleveland
(13-8) dropped back-to-back games in Minnesota after a rainout
Friday, and the Royals (12-10) lost three straight to Texas.

The Indians have dropped three in a row for the first time this
season following a 4-3 defeat to the Twins on Sunday. However, they
enter Tuesday looking to win an eighth straight home game for the
first time since April 29-May 18, 2007.

“We’ve got to get back home and start winning some games,”
manager Manny Acta told the team’s official website. “We all know
that everybody’s going to win 60 and lose 60. It’s what you do with
the other 42 that counts. It’s a long season, we’ve just got to
keep on playing.”

Shin-Soo Choo threw out two runners at the plate in the third
inning Sunday but continues to struggle at the plate, batting .207
after leading Cleveland with a .300 average last year. However, his
only extra-base hit in the past seven games was a double off
Hochevar, and Choo is 12 for 20 with three homers lifetime against
him.

The Royals fell 8-7 to the Rangers on Sunday despite Mike
Aviles’ first career multihomer game. His four RBIs tied a career
high.

Jeff Francoeur hit his team-leading fourth home run to extend
his hitting streak to 14 games, and Alex Gordon’s double in the
eighth ran his hitting streak to 18.

Aviles, Francoeur and Gordon are a combined 11 for 27 (.423)
against Masterson.

The Indians swept three games from the Royals in the teams’ last
series in Cleveland from Sept. 24-26.