The Cleveland Indians are playing some of their best baseball of the season. Much of that success can be credited to rookie pitcher Jeremy Sowers and their strong performances against the Kansas City Royals.
Sowers tries to lead the Indians (68-74) to their 12th straight home win over the Royals (54-90) when the AL Central rivals open a two-game series Tuesday.
Cleveland is 21-10 since Aug. 9, including six wins over Kansas City in that span. The Indians have won nine of the last 10 meetings between the teams and have outscored the Royals 74-27 in winning 11 in a row at Jacobs Field.
The Indians swept Kansas City in four games from Aug. 11-13, their last series in Cleveland, with Sowers (7-3, 3.35 ERA) pitching six innings to win the finale 13-0.
Sowers has won six straight decisions heading into this start, which will be his last of the season because the Indians want to limit the left-hander to 190 innings between Triple-A Buffalo and the majors.
He has pitched 180 2-3 total innings following a 7-2 victory at Toronto on Tuesday when he allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings.
“It’s definitely the right thing to do,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We could get greedy and play it out, but it’s not very smart. You can’t be negligent. You’ve got too much history to look at with young pitchers.”
Following back-to-back defeats in July, Sowers has gone 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA over his last nine starts. He has held opponents to two or less runs in five straight starts and in nine of his 13 outings this season.
Sowers will try to lead the Indians to their 12th home win in the last 13 games as they open a six-game homestand with the 1,000th contest at Jacobs Field. Cleveland is returning home from a 5-5 road trip, which it concluded by splitting a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox.
Victor Martinez hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth inning Sunday to lift the Indians to a 5-2 victory in the finale.
“Chicago knocked us out last year and they had already clinched, so we wanted to return the favor,” said Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia, who pitched a four-hitter for the victory.
The Royals couldn’t complete a three-game sweep at Boston on Sunday, dropping the final game 9-3 after scoring 20 runs in the first two meetings.
“Sweeping these guys at home would have been nice,” Kansas City catcher John Buck said. “But the next step in the learning process is not to be satisfied with two wins and obviously go after that third one.”
Runelvys Hernandez (5-9, 6.39) tries to bounce back from a shaky outing when he takes the mound for Kansas City. The right-hander allowed five runs and seven hits over six innings in an 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday.
The defeat followed back-to-back wins during which Hernandez allowed just one run in 15 innings. He is 3-2 with a 4.80 ERA in eight career starts against the Indians, but gave up five runs and seven hits over 3 1-3 innings in a 6-5 loss to them on May 18.