Can Francona’s pep talk ignite Indians?

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) in the dugout during the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians are hoping a pep talk by manager Terry Francona will help kick-start their season.

The Kansas City Royals still remember a series in Cleveland last season when they were swept.

These AL Central rivals meet for the first time Monday night to open a four-game series, with both looking to improve upon poor divisional records.

Cleveland (8-10) ended a three-game slide with Sunday’s 6-4 home victory over Toronto. It came after Francona delivered a speech to his struggling club after Saturday’s lifeless 5-0 defeat.

"Nobody likes coming to the ballpark and look at your record when it’s not what you want it to be," Francona said. "That’s plain and simple. Saying that, I don’t want them dragging in here, because it’s a new day.

"During a baseball season there’s a lot of grinding that needs to be done. Sometimes the game’s easier than it is (at other times). That’s simple fact. So when it’s not going perfect, you grind the best you can."

The Indians are 3-6 against fellow AL Central clubs while the Royals are 4-7. Cleveland won 10 of 19 meetings last year.

"Any time you’re playing a division game, it’s key," third baseman Eric Hosmer told the Royals’ official website. "Because you look at last year, and our schedule was pretty tough at the end and their schedule wasn’t as tough as ours, and they really made up a lot of games on us because of that, I think."

Kansas City (9-8) was swept in a three-game set at Cleveland right before the All-Star break to fall 6 1/2 games behind the Indians, who went on to claim a wild-card spot. The Royals went 4-2 in the season series after the break.

"We got swept," Hosmer said. "And I believe the second half, we played them well, but there was just too much ground to make up."

Cleveland’s Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley combined for 33 RBIs in last year’s season series. Brantley leads the Indians with 16 but Santana and Cabrera have combined for eight.

Salvador Perez had a team-high 12 RBIs against Cleveland last year, but he went 0 for 12 in a weekend series against Minnesota and is mired in a 4-for-38 slide.

The Royals had their season-high five-game win streak snapped Sunday with an 8-3 defeat to the Twins.

"We won the series and we were going for a sweep, but it didn’t happen and now we’re getting ready for Cleveland," designated hitter Billy Butler said.

Monday’s pitching matchup features right-handers trying to reach 3-0 in Cleveland’s Zach McAllister (2-0, 2.04 ERA) and Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie (2-0, 4.34). Neither club has lost yet with these starters.

McAllister allowed one run over six innings in Wednesday’s 3-2 victory at Detroit to win his second straight outing. He is 1-2 with a 5.60 ERA in three career outings versus Kansas City.

Guthrie, who opened 5-0 last season, gave up four runs over six innings in Wednesday’s 6-4, 11-inning win at Houston. He is 4-3 with a 4.41 ERA as a starter against the Indians.

The Indians are expected to activate Jason Giambi on Monday for his season debut after he was out with a broken rib.