After a rough start to June, the Cleveland Indians have managed to turn things around.
They’ll again have a chance to surpass the .500 mark Wednesday night against the Kansas City Royals.
Cleveland (35-35) opened June with a 5-0 win over Tampa Bay, then dropped a season-high eight in a row. Since then, the Indians have won five of seven and are in position to win a third consecutive series. They’re also trying to move past the break-even mark for the first time since they were 30-29 on June 5.
Michael Brantley’s sacrifice fly capped a three-run eighth inning Tuesday that helped Cleveland rally for a 4-3 win over Kansas City (34-35), which lost for the third time in 14 games.
“I won’t say we needed it, but we wanted it,” Cleveland center fielder Michael Bourn said. “They took second place (in the AL Central) over us (Monday) and we came back today. Not only that, we want to win those close games like that. Those close games matter.”
Cleveland’s last 14 games have been decided by three or fewer runs, and four of the last five by a single run.
Scheduled Indians starter Justin Masterson (8-5, 3.52 ERA) has posted an 8.84 ERA in losing three straight to the Royals, but is 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA in eight starts at Progressive Field this year. He’s yielded five runs, 17 hits and fanned 44 in 36 innings to go 4-0 in his last five home starts.
The right-hander allowed 11 runs over 13 1-3 innings in his previous two starts - both on the road - before he gave up a run, two hits and struck out 10 over seven frames while not receiving a decision in Friday’s 2-1 victory over Washington.
“I just had some good movement,” Masterson told the Indians’ official website. “Slider, sinker, magic pitch … It was all good.”
Masterson, however, allowed seven runs, nine hits and walked four in 6 1-3 innings of a 9-0 loss at Kansas City on April 28.
Alex Gordon is batting. 400 (12 for 30) with three doubles, a triple and a home run against Masterson, but he’s 0 for 7 in the series.
Kansas City’s Luis Mendoza (2-3, 4.08) takes the mound Wednesday looking for another strong outing after he allowed two runs in 13 innings while going 1-0 in his last two starts. He yielded those runs and overcame seven hits in six innings during a 7-2 win at Tampa Bay on Friday.
“Mendy started out really shaky. He was all over the place and he was behind on everybody,” manager Ned Yost said. “But he really settled himself in and his command got better.”
After the right-hander allowed nine runs in four innings of a 13-7 loss in his first 2012 appearance against the Indians, he posted a 2.95 ERA to win his next three starts versus Cleveland last year.
Ex-Royal Mike Aviles had two of Cleveland’s six hits Tuesday. He’s 3 for 8 with an RBI in the set and hitting .300 with six RBIs in June.