Royals, clinging to playoff hopes, face division-leading Indians
CLEVELAND — After their last off day of the regular season Monday, the Cleveland Indians are ready for the sprint to the finish.
The Indians will play 13 games in 13 days to finish the season, all of them against American League Central rivals: the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.
It starts Tuesday at Progressive Field with the first game of a three-game series against Kansas City. Cleveland is fresh off winning two of three games at home against Detroit, giving the AL Central Division-leading Indians a seven-game lead over the second-place Tigers.
The biggest concern for the Indians is the composition of their rotation after Carlos Carrasco sustained a season-ending broken right hand when he was hit by a line drive in his Saturday start.
Carrasco’s injury came just days after Danny Salazar was shut down, probably for the rest of the year, with a strained muscle in his right forearm. So with the start of the postseason two weeks away, Cleveland’s rotation is Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and three question marks.
Josh Tomlin (12-8, 4.75 ERA) will start Tuesday night against the Royals. Barring injury, Tomlin, who was taken out of the rotation for two turns after a horrendous August in which he went 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA, likely will be the No. 3 starter in the postseason.
The No. 4 spot probably will go to rookie Mike Clevinger, who will pitch Thursday against the Royals. Cody Anderson is another candidate. He will pitch Saturday in the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
At this point, however, nothing is certain except manager Terry Francona’s confidence that the rotation isn’t in as dire straits as it might appear.
"(Losing Carrasco and Salazar) makes it more challenging, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get it done," Francona said.
The manager described the Carrasco injury as "a kick in the stomach," but he quickly added that the Indians are prepared to handle whatever is thrown at them the rest of the way.
"If you look ahead too far, it seems daunting, but we’re looking at it in smaller terms," Francona said. "We just need to be one run better than the team we’re playing that day."
On Tuesday, that team is Kansas City. The Royals are out of picture in the AL Central race, and they are longshots, at best, in the wild-card race. However, they are still the defending World Series champions. They sit five games behind the two teams tied for the two AL wild cards, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles.
The Royals are coming off a 3-4 homestand that began with them getting swept by the Oakland A’s in a four-game series. Kansas City then swept a three-game series from the White Sox, including an 8-3 win Monday.
"It ended strong," Royals manager Ned Yost told MLB.com. "It is what it is. Coming off a real good series in Chicago last week, I felt like we had some momentum, and Oakland just stomped on that momentum. But we gathered back up."
The Royals are 5-8 against Cleveland this year and have been outscored 65-46.
Edinson Volquez (10-11, 5.40 ERA) will start for the Royals on Tuesday night. In four starts against Cleveland this year, he is 1-2 with a 4.38 ERA. In 11 career starts against the Indians, he is 3-6 with a 6.38 ERA.
Tomlin has started three times against the Royals this year, going 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA. In 19 career appearances, 15 of them starts, against Kansas City, he is 8-4 with a 4.66 ERA.