Indians what to watch: Divisional matchups will determine Tribe’s fate

Michael Brantley, who is seventh in the AL in batting average (.312), has the third-highest average in the league in home games.

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND — After going 4-4 on one of the flukier road trips out west in team history, the Indians are back at Progressive Field for a 10-game homestand that could go a long way toward determining if they are buyers or sellers when the trade deadline arrives at the end of the month.

Going into the start of a three-game series against Kansas City, Cleveland (41-43) is eight games back in the AL Central. If they are going to whittle that margin down before the All-Star break, they need to start winning again inside the division. The Tribe has lost eight straight to their division brethren and are 14-17. Before the losing streak, they had won six straight and 10 of their last 12 against the division.

Kansas City, which is four games behind Detroit, has won 10 of its last 12 road games and has taken five straight road series. The Royals, who are 16-17 against the division, began a nine-game trip by taking two of three against the Twins.

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The Indians and Royals have split their six games this season. Cleveland took three of four from Kansas City in a series here in April and then got swept in a two-game road set last month.

Indians Live starts at 6:30 p.m. on SportsTime Ohio. Here are other things to watch in tonight’s game:

TOMLIN ENCORE: Josh Tomlin (5-5, 3.78 ERA) takes the hill for the first time since his one-hit, complete-game shutout at Seattle last Saturday where he struck out a career-high 11. It was the Indians’ first one-hitter since 2003 and is one of two games in team history in which the starter threw a shutout with one or fewer hits, no walks and at least 11 strikeouts. The right-hander is facing the Royals for the first time this season but has gone 5-2 with a 4.80 ERA in 10 appearances (eight starts) over his career.

HOME SWEET HOME: Michael Brantley, who is seventh in the AL in batting average (.312), has the third-highest average in the league in home games. Brantley is batting .350 at Progressive Field. Since the ballpark opened in 1994, Albert Belle holds the mark for highest single-season batting average when he hit .413 in 1994.

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ROYALS VS. TOMLIN: Alex Gordon 8-23; Billy Butler 6-22; Alcides Escobar 3-13; Jarrod Dyson 3-9; Eric Hosmer 2-10, HR; Mike Moustakas 3-6; Danny Valencia 0-5; Raul Ibanez 1-4; Lorenzo Cain 0-1; Omar Infante 0-1; Salvador Perez 0-1.

ROYALS STARTER: Rookie Yordano Ventura (5-2, 3.26) faces the Indians for the second time this season. On June 11, he went seven innings and allowed only one run on six hits in getting the win. This is his third career start against the Indians as he is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA. Over his last six starts this season, the right-hander has held opponents to just one home run over his past six starts after allowing five in four games.

BEING PRODUCTIVE: Hosmer has reached base in eight of his last nine plate appearances (five hits, three walks).

OLDIE BUT GOODIE: Ibanez homered on Wednesday becoming the oldest Royal to ever hit a home run at 42 years, 31 days. Ibanez signed with the Royals on Monday after the Angels released him on June 21.

INDIANS VS. VENTURA: Michael Bourn 1-5; Brantley 2-6; Jason Kipnis 1-6; Carlos Santana 2-5; Lonnie Chisenhall 2-5; Yan Gomes 1-5; Mike Aviles 0-3; David Murphy 0-3; Nick Swisher 1-3; Asdrubal Cabrera 1-2; Ryan Raburn 0-2.