The Indians look to complete that feat and win three in a row for the first time in almost two months Sunday at Progressive Field.
In his second game since accepting a trade to Cleveland (65-64) from Minnesota, Thome celebrated his 41st birthday with a game-tying solo homer in the sixth inning and Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) hit a three-run shot in the eighth to help the Indians rally for an 8-7 win Saturday.
“We’ll keep trying to win and see where it takes us,” manager Manny Acta said.
Though the Indians remain 6 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central, they are 2-0 to begin Thome’s second stint with the team. His franchise-best 335th homer remains his only hit in seven at-bats to go along with four strikeouts in his return.
“I’m old enough to be some of these guys’ dad,” Thome said. “They make me feel young again.”
Thome’s value to the club also goes beyond the field.
“As soon as he walked in the clubhouse, everybody sparked up,” said third baseman Jack Hannahan(notes), 14 for 31 with eight RBIs in his last 10 games. “Not everybody can come into this clubhouse and change the atmosphere like he did.”
With their confidence building, the Indians try to win three straight for the first time since June 29-July 2. Cleveland, 21-27 since then, could face a stiff challenge against scheduled Kansas City starter Bruce Chen(notes) (9-5, 4.12 ERA).
The left-hander has a 3.28 ERA while winning a career-high four straight starts. Chen gave up a three-run homer and three other hits while striking out a season-high nine in 7 2-3 innings of a 6-4 win at Toronto on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Chen is 18-9 with a 3.89 ERA in 61 career games - 33 starts - in August, easily his most victories in any month.
“Bruce just goes out and wins,” manager Ned Yost told the Royals’ official website. “He finds ways to win ballgames.”
Chen has done just that while going 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his last four starts versus Cleveland. He’s allowed four runs over 19 2-3 innings in his last three outings against the Indians, including two in seven innings of a 5-4 win April 19.
Thome is 2 for 6 with a double and four strikeouts versus Chen.
Cleveland counters with Justin Masterson(notes) (10-7, 2.83), who looks to improve on his 2-0 record and 3.05 ERA in three starts versus Kansas City this season. He allowed two runs in eight innings before the Indians rallied in the ninth for a 5-2 win over the Royals on July 30.
That outing began a stretch of six straight Cleveland wins in the right-hander’s starts. Masterson yielded five runs in 8 1-3 innings Tuesday and appeared headed for a loss before Shin-Soo Choo(notes) hit a three-run homer in the ninth to give the Indians a 7-5 win over Seattle in the first game of a doubleheader.
The Indians will be without Choo, who is hitting .308 with two homers and nine RBIs in 11 games versus Kansas City this year, after he left Saturday’s game with a strained muscle in his side.