Next up for the Royals: Indians, securing home field

Edinson Volquez will look to help the Royals win a third straight game for the first time in nearly a month.

Charlie Riedel/AP

The Kansas City Royals took the AL Central lead in early June and never looked back on their way to clinching their first division championship since 1985.

That’s also the year they won their only World Series, and they know there’s still a long road ahead to get back to a second consecutive Fall Classic.

Edinson Volquez hasn’t pitched all that well against the visiting Cleveland Indians, but he’ll look to help the Royals win a third straight game for the first time in nearly a month Friday night.

Kansas City (89-63) held a double-digit lead atop the Central for most of the second half, and it wrapped up its first division title in 30 years Thursday with a 10-4 win over Seattle and Minnesota’s 6-3 loss to Cleveland.

"I’ve felt all along we would win this division. I’ve got my eyes on a much bigger prize," manager Ned Yost said. "This is the first step of it."

The accomplishment comes one year after the Royals rode a wild-card berth all the way to the World Series, where they lost to San Francisco in seven games.

"We understand that we’re not done," center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. "We’ve got a lot of unfinished business to take care of."

Kansas City’s next goal is to secure home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The AL pennant winner will have that edge in the Fall Classic due to the NL losing the All-Star Game, and the Royals hold a two-game edge on Toronto for the AL’s best record despite being 7-12 since Sept. 4.

They now look to win three in a row for the first time since Aug. 27-29 behind Volquez (13-8, 3.62 ERA). He has allowed seven runs and 14 hits while walking seven in 11 innings over his last two starts, and he’s given up at least four runs in half of his last eight outings.

Volquez has had his issues against the Indians, going 1-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three starts this season. He’s walked 14 in 14 innings while also surrendering 15 hits.

Michael Brantley has gone 4 for 6 off Volquez in those outings but has sat out the last two games with a jammed right shoulder. Manager Terry Francona said he’s getting close to returning but that playing in this contest might be a stretch.

Jason Kipnis led off Thursday’s victory with a homer and Carlos Santana added a three-run shot as the Indians (75-76) salvaged the finale of a three-game series. They still hold slim playoff hopes as they trail Houston by four games for the second wild card, but they’d have to hop four teams in the standings.

"You’re trying to win every game no matter the circumstance," said Lonnie Chisenhall, who drove in two runs. "I know we’ve got a chance and have something to play for."

Carlos Carrasco (13-11, 3.62) takes the ball looking to help improve those chances. He has a 2.19 ERA and a .167 opponents’ batting average over his last eight starts with 63 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings.

That includes allowing one run while striking out nine in six innings of an 8-3 win over the Royals on Sept. 14. The right-hander, though, lost to the Chicago White Sox on Saturday as he gave up three runs — two earned — in five-plus innings of a 4-3 defeat.

Carrasco has won all three of his starts against the Royals this season with a 2.25 ERA, striking out 23 in 20 innings.