When the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals opened a four-game series last week, they were two of baseball’s hottest teams. Now, each hopes to bounce back at the other’s expense after being swept over the weekend.
Indians right-hander Justin Masterson(notes) looks to remain perfect as he faces Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar(notes) for the second time in six days Tuesday night to open a three-game set in Cleveland.
The Indians began last week with the AL’s best record and the Royals were tied for second-best in the league heading into their series in Kansas City. The Central counterparts split four tight games, one decided in extra innings and two by one run. The other - a 7-5 Cleveland victory Wednesday - featured this matchup’s starters.
Masterson (4-0, 1.71 ERA) had another strong outing, allowing two runs in the first inning but none over the next five to earn the win. He’s given up five runs and no homers in 26 1-3 innings, joining the Los Angeles Angels’ Jered Weaver(notes) as the only pitchers to win their first four starts of the season.
Hochevar (2-2, 5.12) retired the first 15 Cleveland batters but ended up allowing a season-high six runs in six-plus innings, losing for the first time since opening day.
“I like to get my guys through the first month on a regular rotation,” Yost told the team’s official website. “I like to keep the first four starters in a five-man schedule, it keeps them sharper the first month. They’re all healthy, they’re all strong. I try to sharpen them up as much as I can. Then I look at the second month and give them days here and there. But the more they pitch, the sharper they’re going to be.”
Both teams have struggled since the previous series. Cleveland (13-8) dropped back-to-back games in Minnesota after a rainout Friday, and the Royals (12-10) lost three straight to Texas.
The Indians have dropped three in a row for the first time this season following a 4-3 defeat to the Twins on Sunday. However, they enter Tuesday looking to win an eighth straight home game for the first time since April 29-May 18, 2007.
“We’ve got to get back home and start winning some games,” manager Manny Acta told the team’s official website. “We all know that everybody’s going to win 60 and lose 60. It’s what you do with the other 42 that counts. It’s a long season, we’ve just got to keep on playing.”
Shin-Soo Choo(notes) threw out two runners at the plate in the third inning Sunday but continues to struggle at the plate, batting .207 after leading Cleveland with a .300 average last year. However, his only extra-base hit in the past seven games was a double off Hochevar, and Choo is 12 for 20 with three homers lifetime against him.
Aviles, Francoeur and Gordon are a combined 11 for 27 (.423) against Masterson.
The Indians swept three games from the Royals in the teams’ last series in Cleveland from Sept. 24-26.