It wasn’t long ago that the Kansas City Royals ascended to the top of the AL Central behind their longest winning streak in two decades.
While their current run is far more modest, it has at least given them sole possession of second place.
The Royals seek a fifth consecutive win overall and sixth straight at home against the sputtering Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
A 10-game win streak last month moved Kansas City (52-50) atop the Central, but four losses in a row followed to make its stay there a very short one. The Royals were unable to win more than two straight over the next month before taking the final two games on the road against the White Sox and the first two of this four-game set.
Pinch-hitter Billy Butler hit a two-run homer – just his fourth this season – in the eighth inning and Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas went back to back in the second to lift Kansas City to a 6-4 victory Friday.
Butler was batting just .200 in his previous 20 games with three extra-base hits and two RBIs.
"It does give you a shot of confidence," Butler said. "I’ve got a lot of confidence with a bat in my hand anyway. It definitely helps. Hopefully, I build off that."
The Royals have outscored the Indians 28-13 during a five-game win streak at Kauffman Stadium and won eight of nine meetings there.
Carlos Santana provided most of the offense for Cleveland, recording his first multi-homer game this season and three RBIs. He’s 9 for 16 (.563) with five extra-base hits in his last four contests.
The Indians (51-52) have lost five of six while batting .200 and totaling 18 runs – including eight in one game.
They’ll try to send Jeremy Guthrie (5-9, 4.56 ERA) to a fourth straight losing start for the first time in three years.
The right-hander was much sharper in his last outing Monday after posting a 15.75 ERA in his previous two, but he had the misfortune of being opposed by White Sox ace Chris Sale and allowed three runs and five hits over six innings in a 3-1 loss.
Guthrie has lost both starts this season against the Indians, allowing 10 runs and 21 hits in 10 1-3 innings. He’s 4-5 with a 5.14 ERA in 10 career starts versus Cleveland, the team he broke into the majors with in 2004.
This is a very favorable matchup for several Indians. Jason Kipnis is 10 for 17 (.588) with two homers and two doubles against Guthrie, while Lonnie Chisenhall (8 for 15) and Santana (8 for 19) have taken him deep once.
Kipnis’ average against Guthrie is his highest against any pitcher he’s faced more than 10 times.
Cleveland turns to Zach McAllister (3-5, 5.28), who will be pitching on seven days’ rest. He’s been solid in two starts since spending time in the minors while also recovering from a back injury.
The right-hander allowed four runs and seven hits over 12 1-3 innings in those two July outings, and limited Detroit to one run and three hits in 5 1-3 innings last Saturday before leaving without a decision in a 5-2 victory.
McAllister turned in a quality start in a 4-3 victory over Kansas City at Progressive Field on April 21, improving to 2-2 with a 4.94 ERA in four career meetings.
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer was held out of the starting lineup for the fourth time in five games Friday due to a bruised right hand.