The Kansas City Royals’ recent surge has them on the verge of a winning record for the first time in over three weeks.
Another strong performance from their top young pitcher could be enough to get it.
After shaking off a recent injury scare, Yordano Ventura attempts to win back-to-back starts for the first time and help the Royals sweep this two-game set with the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.
Kansas City (32-32) has won three in a row and six of eight to return to .500. The team hasn’t had a winning record since being 22-21 on May 18.
The Royals got back to the break-even point by beating Cleveland 9-5 on Tuesday, pounding out 11 hits with homers from Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas.
"It’s a good feeling," Moustakas said, "but it’s not where we want to be."
It certainly felt good to slow down the Indians (33-32), who had won nine of 10. They still had 10 hits and are batting .306 with 14 homers in their last 11 games while averaging 6.4 runs.
A night after Jason Vargas held them to three runs in 7 2-3 innings, Ventura (3-5, 3.41 ERA) looks to cool off Cleveland’s bats.
The 23-year-old right-hander had lost four straight starts before beating St. Louis on Thursday, yielding two runs in six innings of a 3-2 win. His previously scheduled start was skipped due to a sore elbow, creating a scare that he could become the latest young pitcher to need Tommy John surgery.
"He looked fine, threw the ball well, had good velocity on his fastball," manager Ned Yost told the team’s official website. "He settled down, got us through six innings. I really thought about sending him back out in the seventh, but 91 pitches, I didn’t really want to take him much over 100."
Ventura allowed one run in 5 2-3 innings while not getting a decision in a 5-3 loss in his only start against Cleveland on Sept. 17 in his major league debut.
One of his top concerns will be Lonnie Chisenhall, who had two more hits Tuesday a night after his nine-RBI, three-homer game at Texas. He’s batting .443 with seven homers and 29 RBIs in his last 25 games, hitting safely in the last eight while going 16 for 32 with 16 RBIs.
Jason Kipnis has an eight-game hit streak of his own, collecting four hits with six RBIs in the last two games after getting a two-run double Tuesday.
Gordon has also been very productive, hitting .370 with six homers and 19 RBIs in his last 22 games. Hosmer, who has two homers in three games after hitting one through his first 61, has a .350 average over his past 18 meetings with Cleveland and is 8 for 19 in the last four.
None of the Royals have ever faced Trevor Bauer (1-2, 4.08), who will be looking for his first career road win. He’s 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA in six starts outside Cleveland.
Those road struggles continued Friday when the right-hander didn’t get a decision in a 6-4 loss at Texas, going 6 1-3 innings and giving up four runs – all in the second – but retiring 13 of the last 15 Rangers he faced.
"Last outing he probably got a little conscious about pitching in a little too much," manager Terry Francona told the team’s official website. "It’s something we do stress a lot, because I think it opens up the plate, especially with some of the bigger guys because if you let them get their arms extended they hurt you."