Thanks in large part to improved starting pitching, the Kansas City Royals are playing their best baseball of the season.
The Royals look to match a season high with their third straight win Wednesday night as they face the Cleveland Indians in the middle contest of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
It was the seventh win in nine games for the Royals (18-28) - their best stretch since winning seven of eight from June 18-27 last year.
Carlos Perez gave the Royals another quality start, limiting the Indians (27-16) to three runs in six innings. It was his fifth quality start in his last six outings and the ninth time in the past 11 games a Kansas City starter allowed three earned runs or fewer. Since May 18, Royals starters have a 3.42 ERA.
Zach Greinke, who began this season in the rotation, earned the win with his fifth straight scoreless relief appearance.
“Someday, he’s got a chance to go back to the rotation,” Royals manager Buddy Bell said. “But for now, he’s pitching great, his arm’s fast. He’s doing a great job.”
Kansas City’s bullpen should get stronger with the return of Octavio Dotel, who was expected to be the team’s closer. Dotel, who had been on the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle since the last week of spring training, will be used in short relief before he is eased into the closer’s role.
Dotel will eventually replace rookie Joakim Soria, who worked a perfect ninth inning Tuesday for his 10th save in 13 opportunities.
Scott Elarton (1-0, 5.23 ERA) will try to continue Kansas City’s run of solid outings when he faces his former team. He is 2-0 with a 5.40 ERA in five career starts against Cleveland - where he pitched in 2004 and 2005 - with the last victory coming in 2003, with Colorado.
Elarton allowed four runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings of a 7-4 win at Oakland on Thursday, his first victory since last July 16 at Detroit. The right-hander missed the final 71 games of 2006, and the first 36 this year because of shoulder surgery.
“I fell out of rhythm a couple of times and there’s definitely room for improvement,” Elarton said. “But now that I’m healthy, I feel I can make those strides.”
Cleveland outfielder David Dellucci is 8-of-16 with three home runs against Elarton.
Tuesday’s loss dropped the Indians to 10-12 on the road, a stark contrast to their major league-leading 17-4 home record. The Indians went just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
“We had a chance,” manager Eric Wedge told the Indians’ official Web site. “We just didn’t get it done offensively.”
Left-hander Cliff Lee (2-0, 4.15) makes his fifth start of the season for Cleveland after opening the year on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle. He allowed four runs - two earned - and six hits in six innings Friday in a 9-4 win over Cincinnati.
Lee, who has received 26 runs of support in his four appearances, is 7-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 13 career starts against the Royals.