Tonight the Indians welcome some familiar faces back to Progressive Field. No, not the 1995 team that so many fans still pine for. The familiar faces returning to Cleveland are the Kansas City Royals, a team the Indians squared off against in Kansas City a little over a week ago and had played in Progressive Field a little over a month ago. You’d think they were in the same division or something.
Seeing as how we are so familiar with the Royals at this point, I won’t bore you inane details that Merritt presented to you just last week. In a nut shell, the Royals have been up and down all year. They played really well and then played really bad. They brought in George Brett to fix the offense and now they’re playing well again, especially Eric Hosmer. They’ve climbed out of their funk and may be a player in the AL Central race before everything is all said and done.
Entering play tonight, the Royals still find themselves sitting in third place behind both the Tigers and Indians. Their six game deficit is more than surmountable and one long hot stretch could leap from them right back into first place. Whether or not that happens is anyone’s best guess, but given the amount of talent on this team it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Given the way their pithing staff has performed to this point (10th in ERA as a staff, 3rd best bullpen ERA) if the offense can get their act together the Royals could be dangerous. Could this be a playoff team? Possibly. Playoff spoiler come September? Absolutely.
If the Indians want to continue to keep pace with the Tigers, then they will have to play better against Kansas City than they did a week ago. If you recall, the Tribe lost two out of three games at Kauffman Stadium thanks largely in part to implosions by the bullpen. After a heavy workload throughout most of June, the bullpen was clearly out of gas near the end of that 11 games in 11 days road trip. While still not great, they have performed better of late, but the Royals should have confidence knowing that if they can get into the Tribe’s bullpen they may be able to inflict some damage.