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Indians-Royals Preview

AP - Sports

While the Kansas City Royals own the AL's worst record, they've been anything but lousy against the Cleveland Indians of late.

Kansas City aims for its first three-game sweep of slumping Cleveland in six seasons Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals (43-60) continue to make things difficult on the Indians (50-54), outscoring them 44-22 while winning six of the last seven meetings. Luis Mendoza threw 7 1-3 strong innings before Greg Holland - in his first chance since replacing recently traded Jonathan Broxton - earned the save in Wednesday's 5-2 victory.

Kansas City hasn't completed a three-game sweep of Cleveland since May 8-10, 2006.

The Indians, meanwhile, have dropped 10 of 13 - including a season worst-tying five in a row by a 41-11 margin. Batting .165 during its skid, Cleveland hasn't lost six straight since a seven-game slide June 19-26, 2010.

"The losing streak is disappointing ... We'll get another opportunity tomorrow to come in and try to get a win," losing pitcher Zach McAllister said.

With its recent poor play, third-place Cleveland appears to be in danger of falling out of postseason contention. The Indians sit seven games behind AL Central-leading Chicago and in the bottom half of the wild-card standings.

"It's been a rough five days," manager Manny Acta said. " ... I never expect to lose any game. I never expect to lose five in a row but it is the big leagues and it is tough to win games up here. Things can change fast."

While most teams would surely be looking forward to facing Bruce Chen (7-9, 5.49 ERA), he's recently given Cleveland fits. The left-hander has gone 5-1 with a 3.50 ERA over seven starts against the Indians since 2010, shutting down several of their hitters.

Jose Lopez is 2 for 18 lifetime against Chen while Shin-Soo Choo is 3 for 16 with six strikeouts. Jack Hannahan and Casey Kotchman are a combined 1 for 12.

Chen allowed three runs, seven hits and two walks over five innings in a 6-3 victory at Cleveland on May 30. The Indians are hitting .219 - the second-worst mark in baseball - against left-handed pitchers this season.

Chen has to be glad to have seen July come and go after he went 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA in six starts last month. He yielded three runs and seven hits over six innings Saturday but didn't factor in the decision of a 4-3 loss at Seattle.

Chen had won four consecutive home starts May 9-June 26 before allowing 10 runs and five homers in 10 innings over his last two, going without a decision in both.

It's unknown if Chen will have to face Travis Hafner, who didn't play Wednesday after being placed on the paternity list. Hafner is 4 for 30 (.133) in his last nine games against Kansas City.

The Indians will give right-hander Corey Kluber his first big league start after designating veteran Derek Lowe for assignment on Wednesday. The 26-year-old Kluber, who compiled an 8.31 ERA in three relief appearances last September, went 11-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 21 starts for Triple-A Columbus, striking out 128 over 125 1-3 innings.

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