Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals

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The Cleveland Indians took two of three over the weekend from the Washington Nationals to clinch their second straight series win following an eight game losing skid. The recent success against both the Ranges and Nationals has swung the pendulum of momentum back in the Tribe’s favor and they will look to keep the positive mojo going this week. They continue their nine game home stand this evening when they welcome the division rival Kansas City Royals to Progressive Field for a three game showdown.

The Royals come into play facing circumstances similar to the Nationals. Expectations were high this year. In fact, expectations for the Royals this season were probably higher than any season since the days of George Brett and Bo Jackson. Armed with a core of young up and coming superstars, this was supposed to be the year they finally broke through and made some noise not just in the AL Central, but also in the playoffs.

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After a hot start that saw the Royals climb to the top of the division early, an equally terrible string of baseball sent them plummeting all the way down to the basement of the AL Central standings. However, they appear to have regrouped, at least a bit. After firing a laundry list worth of coaches and installing George Brett as the team’s hitting coach, the Royals have been one of the hottest teams in baseball. They have gone 8-2 over their past 10 games and have pulled themselves back up to around .500 and within 5 games of the division leading Tigers.

As someone who stupidly went all in on the Royals this season for fantasy baseball purposes, it’s nice to see them playing solid baseball once again. For the record, between my four fantasy teams I have some combination of Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar on all of them. In my defense this seemed like a great idea at the time and with the exception of Moustakas, most of them have been solid this season. It’s everyone else’s fault that all of my teams are doing terrible. Yes, this is what I choose to tell myself.

Anyways, the addition of Brett as the team’s hitting coach was meant to shake things up. From the outside looking in it appears as though the Royals felt that their young stars in the making had grown too comfortable being below average and needed something to motivate them. Well, what better way to motivate someone to be great than by putting them in the presence of greatness on a daily basis. I’m sure it also helps that this greatness is also a bit insane and quite possibly one of the most intense players the game of baseball has ever seen. To put it bluntly, Brett isn’t going to allow the kids to continue to coast along with the status quo. He’s going to make them work day in and day out to get better.

As previously stated, it’s hard to argue with the result. They’re starting to hit better and starting to score more runs as a result. The one thing they aren’t doing is providing much power. On the season, the Royals have only hit 36 home runs as a team. That’s second worst in all of baseball (only the Marlins are worse). It’s a bit surprising considering they have hitters in their lineup that are capable of hitting the long ball. Alex Gordon leads them with 6, but Billy Butler has only managed to hit 5 following a career year in 2012 and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have only hit 6 combined. That’s not what the Royals were imagining when they assembled this young core.

The saving grace, especially during their current hot streak has been the pitching. Over the past 17 games the Royals pitching staff has not allowed more than 4 runs to anyone. That’s saying something, especially when you take into account some of the offenses they have run into during that stretch – St. Louis, Texas, Detroit, and Tampa Bay being the most notable. That’s an impressive streak and helps explain the Royals recent turn around. It will be interesting to see whether or not they can keep the Indians potent offense at bay.

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Tags: Alex Gordon Billy Butler Cleveland Indians Eric Hosmer James Shields Justin Masterson Kansas City Royals