Jul 20, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon (4) (left) and shortstop Alcides Escobar (2) warm up before the start of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Indians (51-50) @ Kansas City Royals (50-50)

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Indians Look to Bounce Back Versus Royals

I’m beginning to loathe the Kansas City Royals. Not because of the intradivision rivalry that exists between them and the Indians. Not because of their plethora of young, developing talent. No, my reason for disliking the Kansas City Royals is much more immature than that. I am beginning to despise the Royals, because once again… I’m writing about the Kansas City Royals.

Like clockwork, my turn for series previews falls in line with yet another series between the Tribe and Royals. I suppose I can’t complain too much. After all, things could be worse. I could be like my series preview counterpart, Merritt Rohlfing, and be in a a never ending cycle of White Sox previews. How many different ways are there to say that Adam Dunn is a bum? I kid, I kid… but seriously. Awful. The White Sox and Royals, not Adam Dunn.

Moving on to more important things.

The Indians and Royals are currently engaged in a game of leap frog. One day the Tribe is in second place and the next it’s the Royals. Neither team can seemingly stay hot enough to catch the Tigers atop the AL Central standings. As an Indians fan this trend is growing increasingly frustrating. Case in point, take three of four from the Tigers only to lose two of three to the Twins. I can only imagine how frustrating it mus be as a Royals fan, watching a core of young, talented players continually come up short. One has to wonder if they’ll ever figure it out.

Heading into this pivotal four game set, the Royals have won two games in a row, but that comes only after losing their first four games out of the all-star break. So much for getting off to a good start and building some positive momentum. Tell me we have’t heard that before with this Royals team. And guess what, the reason, once again, is a lack of offensive output. The Royals, for all of their young, offensive talent, still can’t seem to figure this out. Despite their phenomenal pitching, they proof that it is impossible to win a game by a final score of 0-0. You need to score runs, preferably in bunches, if you want to compete for a title.

It’s easy to point fingers, so let’s do that.

royals

Jul 8, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (16) against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The primary reason for the Royals continued struggles has to fall squarely on the shoulders of Billy Butler. A career .300 hitter, Butler has been mired in a season long slump that has seen him forget how to hit for average, power, or contact. Essentially, the three main components of being a quality hitter. As the mainstay of the heart of the Royals batting order, Butler is supposed to be the guy that drives in the runs and gives pitchers headaches. That’s not happening and he has shown no real signs of turning it around any time soon. That’s no bueno.

However, Butler is not alone in the blame. Eric Hosmer has failed to live up the the expectations and promise he showed following a dramatic second half power surge in 2013. Also continuing to struggle has been former top pick Mike Moustakas. He’s been better of late, but has been a key cog in crap factory that has been the Kansas City Royals offense.

Meanwhile, the lack of offensive production has wasted another exceptional season from the Royals’ pitching staff. They have had one of the most solid starting rotations in all of baseball this season, led by James Shields. The back end of their bullpen, led by all-star closer Greg Holland, is nearly impenetrable. It’s those two main components that explain why the Royals are nearly unbeatable when they score four runs or more. They lock down offenses and shorten games better than anyone. It makes you wonder what type of damage this team could do if they ever found their way into the playoffs, when games get tight and the back ends of bullpens really shine.

Meanwhile, the Indians have to find a way to solve the riddle that has been the Kansas City Royals. If you recall, it was the Royals who ended the Tribe’s winning streak earlier this season with a short two game series sweep that sent them into a mini-tailspin. That can’t happen. the Indians need to put some space between themselves and the Royals while also gaining ground on the Tigers. There’s no better way to do that then by taking at least three of four over a long weekend. A strong showing this weekend could help the Indians decide whether or not to be buyers or sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. But that’s a conversation for a different day.

Projected Pitching Match-Ups:

Corey Kluber (10-6, 2.95 ERA/2.87 SIERA) vs. Danny Duffy (5-10, 2.66/4.33)

Josh Tomlin (5-7, 4.43/3.29) vs. Yordano Ventura (7-8, 3.59/3.85)

Zach McAllister (3-5, 5.28/4.21) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (5-9, 4.56/4.46)

Danny Salazar (2-4, 5.12/3.60) vs. Bruce Chen (2-2, 5.80/4.06)

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Tags: Billy Butler Cleveland Indians James Shields

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