Since the end of July, no team has played worse than the Cleveland Indians.
Their struggles against the Kansas City Royals, however, started back in May.
The Royals look to win seven straight games over the woeful Indians for the first time in nearly 40 years Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
In Friday’s opener, Mike Moustakas and Brayan Pena each drove in two runs to lead the Royals (69-81) to a 6-3 victory, their third in a row. Kansas City, which hasn’t won four straight games since June 25-29, is now two victories away from matching last season’s total.
It appears to have a good shot of picking up a few more wins with five games remaining against the Indians.
Cleveland (62-89) is a major league-worst 12-40 since July 26, when it was 50-49 and trailed AL Central-leading Chicago by 3 1/2 games.
The Royals have accounted for four of those defeats, and are averaging 6.7 runs while batting .313 during a six-game win streak against Cleveland. This is Kansas City’s longest run over the Indians since 1978, and it hasn’t won seven straight in the series since a nine-game streak in 1973.
Moustakas is batting .333 with 12 RBIs in 13 games against the Indians this season, while Alex Gordon, who was held out of the lineup in the opener with bruised hands but is expected to start Saturday, is batting .457 with eight RBIs and eight runs in his last nine in the series.
Gordon, however, is 2 for 10 lifetime against Ubaldo Jimenez (9-16, 5.43 ERA), while Billy Butler, Kansas City’s leader with 27 homers and 99 RBIs, is 1 for 9 with a homer against the scheduled starter.
Jimenez, though, hasn’t had much luck lately, and is again seeking his first win since Aug. 9.
At least the Indians managed to get the win in his last start, as Jimenez gave up three runs and five hits in six innings in a 7-6 comeback victory. The right-hander was 0-5 with a 6.61 ERA in his previous six starts with Cleveland losing each.
Jimenez, the major league leader in losses, went 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA in his two April starts against the Royals, and hasn’t faced them since.
Kansas City counters with Will Smith (5-8, 5.08), who hasn’t faced the Indians since making his second career start May 29, when he allowed two runs and four hits in six innings of an 8-2 win, his first.
After throwing seven shutout innings in a win over Minnesota on Sept. 11, Smith permitted four runs and seven hits in five innings in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The rookie left-hander dropped to 1-4 in his last five starts, and has a 6.86 ERA in those defeats.
He’ll be facing a Cleveland team that has scored three runs or fewer in seven of nine games against the Royals, losing eight times.
The Indians left nine runners on base Friday, with Travis Hafner, playing in his second game after being sidelined for 40 with a lower back inflammation, responsible for five of them.
“Offensively, we continue to struggle, especially with situational hitting,” manager Manny Acta said.