The Tribe travels out to Kansas City to take on the red-hot Royals with a four game weekend series. After splitting a short series against the White Sox, Cleveland looks to steal a few games from the Kansas City sovereigns in monarchial systems of government.
[Due to rainouts for both teams, starting probable pitchers have not been set for all games. Because of this, I'll be breaking down this preview into two parts.]
Cleveland Indians (8-11) vs. Kansas City Royals (11-8)
Kauffman Stadium, April 26-29
First pitch: 8:10PM EST
First pitch: 7:10PM EST
Ervin Santana is a familiar foe for our feathered friends. He came up through the Angels organization and got his first career start against the Tribe back in 2005. He has since pitched against us 11 times, losing 10 of those games. The one win? A no-hitter back in July of 2011. The Royals acquired Santana in October of 2012 from the Angels after a disappointing 2012 campaign where he registered a 5.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and a whopping 39 dingers. The trade filled a gap in the Royals rotation, giving them a solid number two who so far this season has a 2.48 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 26 strikeouts, and has held opposing batters to a measly .239 batting average.
The Dominican hurler likes to lock in his 92 mph fastball early in the count, using it an average of 62% of the time on first pitches and 69% of the time if batters get ahead in the count. And once he gets that count into his favor, batters better beware of breaking balls below the belt, not blowing by them but bringing batters to begin botching base hits (how’s that for some alliteration, huh?). In other words, Santana gets about 47% whiffs per swing on a breaking ball when he’s ahead of the batter.
Santana will be matched up against Indians southpaw, Scott Kazmir. Kazmir is coming off his first major league start since 2011 which was...well...it was pretty bad. In three innings, Kaz gave up eight hits, two homers, six earned runs, three walks, and four strikeouts. His ERA is sitting at a hefty 16.20. Granted, it was only one game, but it still wasn't pretty.
Guthrie was a former first rounder (22nd pick overall) back in 2002 by your Cleveland Indians. Although he spent most of his time in the Indians' Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, but did make several appearances for the Tribe out of the bullpen in 2006. Out of options, Guthrie was removed from the 40-man roster after the Indians signed Trot Nixon and was DFA'd back to Buffalo. He never made it. Baltimore claimed him off the waivers in January of 2007. He had a breakout year that season, only giving up 72 earned runs in 175 innings with 47 walks to 123 strikeouts. After a five year stint in Baltimore, Guthrie was traded to the Colorado Rockies where he pitched in 19 games before being traded to the Royals in July of 2012. He emerged as one of KC's best pitchers with a 3.16 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 91 innings. So far this season, Guthrie has an ERA of 3.86, 1.21 WHIP, and 19 strikeouts in four games.
The righty has several pitches at his disposal, but expect to see his 93 mph heater, an 85 mph slider, and his weapon of choice, his sinker that sits in the low 90s. Although Guthrie tends to mix and match his pitches like a well tossed salad, he tends to use his fourseamer and sinker early in the count or if the batter gets ahead. He's got an average groundball per balls in play percentage of 52.13% for both of these pitches combined. Tribe hitters will need to watch out for Guthrie's slider, which happens to be his go-to strikeout pitch. He can pepper the outside corner of the plate like Emeril seasoning spaghetti sauce. Bam!
Opposite Guthrie will be U-bad-though, I mean Ubaldo. Although his last start against Houston was mediocre in terms of any decent pitcher, it's safe to say it was pretty good for Baldy. With 65 pitches made in five innings,44 were for strikes. He surrendered four hits, four earned runs, and one dinger, but for Jimenez, that's pretty good. He'll need to do much, much better than that to get a W against the Royals.
Kansas City is coming off a major win, going toe-to-toe against Verlander and the Tigers. An Alex Gordon grand slam in the 10th inning capped off their road trip as the Royals sit pretty at the top of the division at 11-8. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain leads the team offensively with a stat line of .359/.419/.500. Actually, six of their starters are batting over .260 with only Mike Moustakas hitting below the Mendoza Line at .154. The Indians have three guys at or below .200.
This is going to be a tough matchup for the Indians. The Royals offense is rolling and their pitching is the best it's been in years. Combine that with as streaky as our offense has been, we'll be lucky to split this series.
Justin Johnston is a contributing writer to The Tribe Daily. You can follow him on Twitter @WahooJay.