Tribe on late surge as first half closes
JUL 12, 2013 9:01a ET
After getting back on track with a series win, the Cleveland Indians would love to push the Kansas City Royals further behind them in the AL Central.
The Indians go for their fourth win in six games Friday night when they take on the Royals in the opener of a three-game series at Progressive Field.
Following four straight losses and six in eight games, Cleveland (48-44) bounced back with an 4-2 victory over Toronto on Thursday to take two of three in that set.
Rookie Danny Salazar allowed one run and two hits over six innings, lowering the ERA of Cleveland's rotation to 2.05 over the last five games. The Indians' starters had a 9.00 ERA during the team's recent four-game skid.
Corey Kluber (6-5, 4.23 ERA) will try to continue that trend Friday. Since posting a 1.66 ERA while winning three consecutive starts from June 11-22, the right-hander is 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in his last three.
The best outing of that stretch, though, came Sunday, as Kluber matched a career high with 10 strikeouts and yielded two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 9-6 win over Detroit.
He'll face the Royals for the third time this season after going 1-0 while giving up six runs and 11 hits over 12 1-3 innings in his previous two starts - both Indians victories.
Alex Gordon became the ninth Royals player to hit two grand slams in a season when he connected off Kluber in Cleveland's 6-5 win in Kansas City on July 2. The left fielder has three hits - two home runs - in nine at-bats in this matchup.
Eric Hosmer's only hit in eight at-bats against Kluber left the park, but he's batting .389 with five home runs in his last 13 games overall.
"I'm not really doing anything different right now," Hosmer told the team's official website. "I'm just trying to stay consistent with the work I'm doing."
The Royals (43-46) had a pair of early three-run leads Thursday before losing 8-4 to the Yankees and settling for a split of that four-game series.
Kansas City will try to pull within 2 1/2 games of the second-place Indians by handing the ball to Bruce Chen (3-0, 2.41), who replaces struggling right-hander Luis Mendoza in the rotation. The lefty makes his first start after going 11-14 with a 5.07 ERA in 34 starts for the Royals in 2012.
Chen has pitched well in Cleveland, going 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four starts since 2010.
Michael Brantley should be happy to see Chen again since he's 9 for 14 lifetime in this matchup. The left fielder is also hitting .396 in his last 12 games against the Royals.
Teammate Asdrubal Cabrera, who hit his seventh homer Thursday, is batting a team-best .370 - including 4 for 7 with runners in scoring position - in this season series.
The teams have split 10 meetings, though Cleveland took two of three at home June 17-19.