Pregame Notes: Cleveland Indians make much-needed return to Progressive Field

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As the “it’s early” excuse nears its end, the Cleveland Indians must have a sense of urgency in series against Royals

It may not be immediately apparent, but the Cleveland Indians offense is finally starting to come around.

Despite the series loss in Detroit, the Tribe scored 20 runs in three games and witnessed some great offensive efforts from lineup stalwarts Michael Brantley, Brandon Moss and Carlos Santana. Brantley was 8-for-13 in the series, including a four-hit performance on Saturday, and Moss posted a career-best seven RBIs in Friday’s win. Santana, meanwhile, quietly went 4-for-9 with four walks and three RBIs.

Cleveland will need all of those guys – and more – in this series as they begin a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals on Monday. Reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber will be on the hill to kick off the series in search of his first win of the season.

Although he has been solid through his first four starts this season, Kluber owns a 0-2 record and 3.90 ERA. Cleveland has lost all four of his starts while providing just a 1.63 run-support average.

The Royals could be just what the Klubot ordered, as he pitched well against Kansas City last season, going 2-1 with a 1.15 ERA in four starts last season. He pitched into the ninth inning on three separate occasions against Kansas City last season and  has been almost unhittable for the Royals’ top bats.

Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon are a combined 8-for-56 in their careers against Kluber, while shortstop Alcides Escobar is just 5-for-25 with 10 strikeouts. Mike Moustakas is seemingly the only hitter in KC’s lineup who has any amount of success against Kluber, as the left-handed hitting third baseman is 8-for-21 with a home run and four doubles.

Opposite Kluber will be Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas. Vargas is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA on the young season while allowing opposing hitters to bat .348 in his three starts. He was 1-1 against the Tribe over four starts in 2014, posting a 4.94 ERA.

After jumping out to a hot start, the Royals have hit just .243 as a team in their last four games and lost the final two games of a heated matchup with the White Sox. Pending appeals, the Royals could very well be without Cain and pitchers Edinson Volquez, Kelvin Herrera and Yordano Ventura, who is scheduled to start opposite Danny Salazar on Wednesday.

This three-game set with the Royals marks the end to a 17-game stretch against divisional opponents. They are coming off a nine-game trip through the AL Central in which they were just 3-6. The Tribe is 4-10 against division opponents so far this season, but they’ve won 12 of the last 18 meetings between these two teams in Cleveland.

Here are the starting lineups:

Lonnie Chisenhall and Moss get the day off with the left-handed pitcher on the bump. And Ryan Raburn, who ranks third in the American League in doubles (6) despite having appeared in only 11 games, gets the start against Vargas.

News & Notes:

All three games in this three-game set with Kansas City will be played at 6:10 p.m., an hour earlier than most weeknight games. The Indians are reportedly testing an earlier weeknight start time during the early months of the season in order to avoid potential weather issues and allow families to attend games and arrive home at a reasonable hour. Take a look at the full fans guide to the Tribe’s seven-game homestandAfter a slow start to his season, the organization’s prized prospect Francisco Lindor has been red hot in Columbus. He was 10-for-16 in the weekend series – including a 4-for-6 effort while reaching base six times in Sunday’s doubleheader – raising his batting average from .191 to .302. Meanwhile in Cleveland, Jose Ramirez sits at .196/.250/.275 and has looked largely overmatched through 15 games. –Michael Bourn batted ninth for the Indians in Sunday’s loss in Detroit. According to Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, it was the first time Bourn hadn’t started a game in the leadoff spot since June 28, 2011 as a member of the Houston Astros. Bourn has just 11 hits in 65 at-bats this season, boasting a dismal .169/.239/.200 slash line in the early going. -A good sign for the Indians, Yan Gomes joined the team in Detroit on Sunday. Gomes is reportedly on or ahead of schedule.

-Check out this creative commercial by big-time Indians’ sponsor Key Bank:

"We hope this lasts ’til October. Go #Tribe. #Indians https://t.co/1ClieUTfQ8— KeyBank (@keybank) April 27, 2015"

I find it hard to believe a bucket of gum would last five months for Francona, but it may last him until the end of the week. Every little bit counts.

Next: Indians vs. Royals Series Preview

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