Indians look to end skid against Royals

The Cleveland Indians, with closer Cody Allen reeling, will try to regroup Saturday night in the second game of a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

The AL Central-leading Indians have lost three in a row, the last of which was a crushing 5-4 defeat on Friday night, when Allen had the worst night of the worst season of his career.

Allen came in to start the ninth inning, and in the span of four pitches gave up two home runs to turn a 4-3 Indians lead into a 5-4 Indians defeat.

Allen has saved 30 or more games in each of the last three years, and he is the Indians’ all-time leader with 147 saves, but this season has been a struggle. His blown save Friday was his fourth of the season, and he has given up a career-high 11 home runs.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona said the Indians have not lost confidence in Allen.

“I’ll sit down and talk to him,” Francona said. “We need him really bad to win. We can’t run away from him.”

Allen’s 4.50 ERA is a career high, and a far cry from his 2.86 career mark.

“It’s disappointing. But we’ll go look at it more to see if there’s anything,” Francona said. “It begins with his breaking ball, when he commands that everything falls into place. Right now, he feels like some nights he doesn’t have it.”

Saturday night the Indians will send two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the mound. Kluber (16-6, 2.74) will be making his 27th start of the season, and he is coming off a winning performance against the Red Sox in his last start, on Monday, in Boston. Kluber pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs and nine hits with six strikeouts and one walk in a game the Indians won 5-4.

In his last five starts Kluber is 4-0 with a 2.21 ERA. His last start against Kansas City came on July 2, a 9-3 victory in which he pitched six innings, allowing three runs and seven hits, with five strikeouts and no walks.

In two starts against the Royals this year, Kluber is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA. He has made 22 career starts against Kansas City and is 11-6 with a 2.90 ERA in those games.

The Royals on Saturday will counter with right-hander Heath Fillmyer (1-1, 4.57). Fillmyer has split his season between Kansas City and Triple-A Omaha. In 13 starts with Omaha he was 4-5, with a 5.75 ERA.

With Kansas City Fillmyer has been used as both a starter and a reliever. In seven starts he is 1-1 with a 5.29 ERA. In four relief appearances he has a 2.38 ERA and no record.

He got his first major-league win on Aug. 8, when he pitched seven shutout innings against the Cubs in a 9-0 victory. Fillmyer struck out three and walked two in that game.

“I didn’t have many strikeouts today,” Fillmyer said of the victory, according to MLB.com. “I didn’t want to walk them. I ended up having two unfortunate ones that didn’t end up costing us. That being said, I just let them work ahead and try to get them to get themselves out.”

Saturday will be Fillmyer’s second career appearance against Cleveland. His other appearance came as a reliever, on July 4, when he pitched three scoreless and hitless innings, with two strikeouts and one walk.

One of the Cleveland hitters Fillmyer will have to pay particular attention to is Indians rookie center fielder Greg Allen, who has been one of the Indians’ hottest hitters of late.

From July 15 through Aug. 21, Allen had a 14-game hitting streak, the longest by a major league rookie this season. In his last 16 games Allen is hitting .383, raising his batting average from .204 to .259.

“He’s using the whole field, keeping the ball out of the air to left field, staying on the ball, and hitting line drives,” said Francona.