The Kansas City Royals are playing like a team that knows it’s going to miss the playoffs for the 24th consecutive season.
Though the Cleveland Indians aren’t anticipating a run at the postseason either, they’ve put together their best stretch of the year.
The Indians look to continue their hot streak and hand the Royals their sixth straight defeat Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Cleveland (55-69) is no longer concerned with making a playoff push, but that hasn’t stopped the Indians from going 18-11 since July 23. They’ve averaged 7.0 runs and batted .320 while winning four of five.
Cleveland’s success at the plate continued in a 10-6 win at Kansas City on Monday night. Travis Hafner(notes) opened the scoring with a three-run homer in the fourth inning, and Luis Valbuena(notes) hit another three-run shot to put the Indians ahead for good in the eighth.
Hafner is hitting .444 with two homers, seven RBIs and six runs over his last four games - all wins. Valbuena is batting .385 with three homers, seven RBIs and six runs over his last seven.
“I feel better, I feel good at the plate,” Valbuena said through an interpreter. “I feel like every game I start, something good is going to happen.”
The 23-year-old second baseman had five homers over 63 games prior to his seven-game hitting streak.
“He gets big hits. He likes being up there in key situations and he’s been swinging the bat very well,” manager Eric Wedge said. “You’re seeing a young man who is continually getting better over the course of the season, continuing to get a better feel for this league and different situations, different types of games.”
While Cleveland’s offense is surging, Kansas City’s pitching has been struggling. The Royals (47-77) have given up 10 runs and 14 hits in each of their last two games. They’re tied with Cincinnati for the worst record in the majors since the All-Star break at 10-26.
The Royals have to like their chances of getting a better performance on the mound with Zack Greinke(notes) (11-8, 2.44 ERA) starting Tuesday. But despite Greinke’s consistent effectiveness, Kansas City has lost 12 of the right-hander’s last 15 starts.
Greinke gave up four runs while striking out eight in seven innings Wednesday, suffering a 4-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“We haven’t given him enough support, but he knows that and he’s going to go out there and do his best,” outfielder David DeJesus(notes) told the Royals’ official Web site. “And we’re trying our best out there and that’s all we can ask for.”
Greinke is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three starts against the Indians this year. The Royals have lost the last two despite getting a quality start from Greinke in each game.
The Indians will hand the ball to Justin Masterson(notes) (4-4, 4.36). The right-hander, who’s made three starts since his return to the rotation, allowed one unearned run and three hits in 6 1-3 innings to beat the Los Angeles Angels 11-3 on Thursday.
Masterson went 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in three games - one start - against the Royals last season, but he’s been tagged for seven runs while recording two outs over two relief appearances against them in 2009.