Jun 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (8) singles and drives in a run during the game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Indians defeated the Rangers 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Indians (33-31) @ Kansas City Royals (31-32)


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Jun 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals Sluggerrr celebrates at the end of the game against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Surging Indians Travel to Kansas City to Face Struggling Royals

What else can you really say about the Cleveland Indians right now except to say that life is good. THey’ve won nine out of their last ten games, have climbed to within two games of the struggling Detroit Tigers, and have Lonnie Chisenhall finally playing like the player we all hoped he could be.

Yep, things are going pretty good.

After winning three of four against the struggling Texas Rangers, the Indians will head to Kansas City to begin a short two game series tonight. It’s odd that the Indians would play a such a short series against a division rival, but hey, who am I to judge what MLB does with it’s scheduling. What I do know is that the Indians have a golden opportunity staring at them in the face. With the Tigers suddenly in free fall mode, the Tribe has a chance to leap back into first place. That’s something that hasn’t been done since the earliest portion of the season and not something many thought possible two weeks ago. But here we are.

Of course, taking two games from a struggling Royals team will be more difficult than winning three of four from the struggling Rangers. I know, that sounds crazy, but familiarity often brings out the best in people. Throw in the fact that the Royals are teetering on the brink of irrelevance once again and they might be in desperation mode. There is also the distinct possibility that the Indians get lackadaisical or their defensive issues, which have been held mostly in check lately (but not completely) rear their ugly head and sweep their legs right out from under them.

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Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

However, as luck would have it, the Indians will catch a break over the next two days. Thanks to the aforementioned scheduling gods, the Tribe will not have to face James Shields. That’s huge. Shields is the Royals’ best pitcher and routinely gives Indians hitters fits. The last thing this team needs right now is to face off against an elite level pitcher and send the offense spiraling into a two-week tailspin of offensive ineptitude. Not that we haven’t ever seen anything like that before.

In place of Shields, the Indians will square off against left hander Jason Vargas in game one and hard throwing rookie sensation Yordano Ventura in game two.  These match-ups will be intriguing for a number of reasons, but none more so than Vargas.

Will Terry Francona start Lonnie Chisenhall against the lefty? After last night’s 5 for 5 performance, it would be silly to bench the team’s hottest hitter, regardless of the handedness of that day’s starting pitcher. However, we’ve seen managers do dumber things than that in the name of left on left and right on right match-ups.

Oh dear God! That’s Manny Acta‘s music!

What? You don’t think intentionally walking left-handed Mitch Moreland in order to face the way more powerful, dangerous, and potentially hall of fame worthy Adrian Beltre all because he’s right-handed is a stupid idea? Well then, I say good day to you sir…

Anyways, It’ll be interesting to see how Terry Francona decides to approach this one. My money is on Chisenhall getting the start he deserves. He’s so locked in right now that the handedness of the pitcher shouldn’t matter. In addition, Chisenhall has been fairly successful against southpaws this year, going 13 for 25 with a home run and five RBI. That’s good enough for a .520/.556/1.236 OPS. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but based on his performance it warrants the start.

Moving on, the Royals shouldn’t put up much of a fight offensively. Another year, another tale of how their much heralded top hitting prospects aren’t hitting. It’s been bad. Really, really bad.

It’s been so bad, in fact, that the Royals are nearing the point where they have to decide on whether or not this is all worth it. To make matters worse, even their normally reliable hitters aren’t hitting. Yes, I’m talking about Billy Butler and his anemic .249/.300/.316 slash line can attest to. He’s having a miserable go of it in 2014. He has only one home run and 21 RBI to his name through 63 games played. Whether there’s an underlying injury or premature decline occurring is uncertain at this point, but after continually doing nothing but hitting over the years, his mind-boggling lack of production is cause for concern.

Also helping Butler sink the ship that is the Royals offense is Eric Hosmer. After last season’s spectacular second half, many felt that the highly touted Hosmer was finally reaching his potential. Fast forward to 2014 and Hosmer has regressed considerably. His .256/.295/.357 slash line is borderline abysmal. His startling lack of power, two home runs, is not very encouraging.  It could be worse, though. Hosmer could be demoted to Triple-A like Mike Moustakas was. Fortunately for Moose, he was recalled after injuries at the big league level forced their hand. It’s hard to be excited though when a former top pick is batting .151/.216/.303.

The list of underperforming Royals goes on from there: Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Morichika Aoki, Jarrod Dyson, etc.

On the bright side, the Royals still have Alex Gordon. His production has been the one consistent thing the ROyals have come to rely on. His .288/.376/.445 slash line is on par with his career averages. Even his run scoring and home run production is in line with what we have come to expect. As a result, Gordon leads the Royals in every major offensive category. Although, that’s about on par with saying you are the world’s tallest little person. At the end of the day, you’re still really short. In the case of Alex Gordon… poor, poor Alex Gordon… he’s still a Royal. You can’t help but feel like he’s Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption, forced to serve a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.

So that’s the situation in Kansas City right now. It’s probably a lot of fun to go to the ball park and watch this team right now. Probably about as much fun as going to the dentist or shoveling elephant crap at the circus. Meanwhile, things couldn’t be any better for the Indians – winning games and doing it with style. Let’s just hope they can keep doing it and come home tied for first in the AL Central.

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Tags: Alex Gordon Billy Butler Cleveland Indians James Shields