Cleveland Indians: Three keys to victory against the Kansas City Royals

Cesar Hernandez #7 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
Cesar Hernandez #7 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Indians, Triston McKenzie
Starting pitcher Triston McKenzie #24 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Tribe pitchers need to cut out the walks

As mentioned on the previous page, the Royals have been scoring a lot of runs and they have been particularly lethal in the clutch. They sit fourth in the AL with a team .257 batting average with runners in scoring position. It will be crucial for Tribe pitching to make KC work hard to get on base, every time and limit the opportunities for them to hit with runners on base.

Worryingly, the Cleveland Indians have gotten into a nasty habit of walking batters. Since 2016, Indians pitching had allowed the fewest walks in the majors, but one month into 2021 and they are middle of the rankings in that stat category.

As all baseball aficionados know, walks will kill ya. Such a recipe for disaster was perfectly evidenced on Saturday by Tribe pitcher Triston McKenzie. McKenzie, whose status in the rotation is in jeopardy due to struggles with his command, is averaging nearly nine walks per nine innings. In his last start he walked four batters in the second inning, including walking in a run with the bases loaded. Those other free passes would cross home plate when Tim Anderson put Chicago’s first ball in play of the game for a grand slam. That’s five runs off one hit. Walks will, indeed, kill you.

For the four-game set against KC, the Indians will have Aaron Civale on the bump in game one. Civale has been tremendous through his first five starts and has allowed just nine walks in 33 2/3 innings. So the Tribe should be in position to get off to a good start in the series. But after Civale, things could get a little dicey.

Rookie, Sam Hentges, who has pitched out of the bullpen for the big-league club, has been a starter throughout most of his minor-league career. Therefore, Francona has given him the nod to start game two in place of Logan Allen, who was optioned to Columbus following a trio of awful starts for the Indians. Hentges, to put it mildly, has not been good as a starter, even in the minors. What hasn’t helped is cause is his wayward command. Across five seasons at Single-A and Double-A ball, he averaged five walks per nine innings, and did not make a start at the Triple-A level before being called up.

With the Indians, Hentges has already allowed three home runs in just five and 2/3 major-league innings this year, which points to another reason why he, in particular, needs to focus on throwing strikes consistently, especially against this dangerous Royals ball club.

As for games three and four, the starters for the Indians are still to be determined. It is worth noting that Shane Bieber would be on his normal rest, and a strong possibility to start on Wednesday. Otherwise, Francona may look to Cal Quantrill, who has had his own issues dishing out free passes, as a spot starter.

Whoever the final two pitchers are for the series will need make sure they throw strike one and work from in front in order to keep a dangerous hitting team from causing damage with runners on base.