Series Preview: Kansas City Royals vs. Cleveland Indians

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Angry Royals to Provide Interesting Challenge for Downtrodden Cleveland Indians

The Royals are angry. Like, Hulk-rage level angry. They’re so angry that they could change their color scheme from blue and white to solid green and it would make total sense. Seriously, the Royals are angry, and you won’t like them when they’re angry.

Unless, of course, you’re a fan of the Kansas City Hulks.

That’s the primary difference right now between the Cleveland Indians and Royals. Ok, so it’s the primary difference once you get past offense and defense. But those aren’t important, right?

The Royals are playing with a gigantic chip on their shoulder and rightfully so. The defending AL champs earned little to no respect this offseason following. After losing several notable pieces, most notably James Shields and Billy Butler, most prognosticators felt that their window of opportunity had closed. Sure, they still have some nice pieces in place, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer and Yordano Ventura, among others, but without a true frontline starter many felt they would fall back into obscurity.

Well, the Royals heard all of those predictions and needless to say, they didn’t take too kindly to any of it.

The Royals have come out on fire to start the 2015 season. At 12-6, the Royals sit comfortably in second place in the Central, a mere half game behind the Tigers. It’s no fluke either. Right now, the Royals are doing everything well that a team needs to do in order to win games. They are once again the best defensive team in all of baseball and currently have a mind boggling 24 defensive runs saves, by far the best in baseball. Offensively, they have scored the eighth-most runs at 89 and have one of, if not the best team slash line in all of baseball at .295/.355/.438. Those rank first, second, and fourth, respectively.

It’s a well rounded attack that is getting better with age. Lorenzo Cain is among the league leaders with a .375 batting average. His 2014 breakout seems less and less like a fluke each and every day. Salvador Perez is hitting well, leading the team with three homers and sharing the team lead in RBI, 12, with the aforementioned Cain. I’ve also failed to mention hot starts from Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, and the recently acquired Alex Rios. Rios is far and away the wild card acquisition of the year. He’s a superstar talent that can change a team’s fortunes when he’s playing well.

Meanwhile, the pitching staff hasn’t missed a beat despite the loss of James Shields. Led by the hot-headed Yordano Ventura, the Royals’ staff is among the best in all of baseball… when they aren’t throwing at people or starting fist fights. Danny Duffy looks like he has put it all together. finally, while Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie have had a steadying veteran presence. Perhaps the biggest surprise thus far for the Royals has been Edison Volquez. Acquired in the offseason to replace Shields, Volqeze has pitched well for the Royals with a 1.91 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 28 innings of work.

Lastly, Kansas City’s bullpen is once again one of the best, if not the best in all of baseball. Closer Greg Holland was off to a great start until a strained pectoral muscle landed him on the 15 day DL. Wade Davis has stepped up to fill in and has pitched amazingly well. The big righty has notched four saves to go along with an unblemished ERA and nearly perfect WHIP of 0.38. Rounding out the bullpen is Kelvin Herrera. He has been every bit as dominant in 2015 as he was in 2014.

More from Away Back Gone

This will serve as another excellent test for an Indians team that continues to struggle to find its way in 2015. At six games back in the standings heading into tonight’s game, it may be time to start worrying just a bit. While the Indians are by no means out of this… after all, there are five months of baseball left to play… they can’t afford to keep falling further and further behind two teams that show no real signs of weakness. That’s part of why these games matter. The Indians can get as hot as they want down the stretch, but if either the Tigers or Royals refuse to play along and lose games, it will all be a moot point.

Probable Pitching Matchups:

Corey Kluber vs. Jason Vargas

Trevor Bauer vs. Jeremy Guthrie

Danny Salazar vs. Yordano Ventura

Next: Francona still looking for spark at the top

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