The AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians have returned to their winning ways, with their substitute No. 3 hitter providing a big boost for their banged-up lineup.
After being swept by the White Sox in Chicago over the weekend, Cleveland (27-21) bounced back with an 8-5 victory over the Royals on Monday. The Indians, who won for the 10th time in 14 home games, pounded out 14 hits with Lonnie Chisenhall's homer the only one going for extra bases.
"I was glad we cut off that streak," manager Manny Acta said. "Guys like Kipnis do a pretty good job of putting things behind them."
Kipnis had three hits and drove in two runs Monday, and is 7 for 13 with two homers and six RBIs in three games since being moved to the No. 3 spot in the batting order to replace the injured Asdrubal Cabrera (hamstring). Cabrera is day to day, but Cleveland is also missing Travis Hafner (knee) and Carlos Santana (concussion).
Kipnis has managed to knock around Kansas City pitching regardless of his spot in the order. In seven games against the Royals (19-28) this year, the second baseman is 10 for 24 with two homers, seven RBIs and eight runs in helping the Indians to five victories.
Scheduled Cleveland starter Justin Masterson (2-3, 4.62 ERA) has yet to face Kansas City this year, but has typically fared well in the series. He went 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA in five games against the Royals last season, and he has a 2.84 ERA in five starts against them at Progressive Field.
In front of the home crowd Thursday, Masterson gave up a run, five hits and five walks in seven innings of a 2-1 win over Detroit. Although the walks have been a problem for the right-hander - his average of 4.91 per nine innings ranks sixth-worst in the majors - he has done a good job of limiting the damage, yielding three runs or fewer in five of his last six starts.
He could have better luck avoiding free passes against a Kansas City team that has 123 walks - the second-fewest in baseball. Cleveland batters, meanwhile, have a major league-high 197 bases on balls.
The Royals have lost eight of 12 and have surrendered eight runs three times in their last five games. Tuesday's scheduled starter, Will Smith (0-1, 13.50), was on the mound in one of those contests.
Smith was faced with the daunting task of making his major league debut in the Bronx on Wednesday. The 22-year-old left-hander wasn't quite up to the challenge, allowing five runs and six hits - including three homers - in 3 1-3 innings of an 8-3 loss to the Yankees.
"Everything's running through your mind - all the adrenaline, debut and all this stuff," he told the Royals' official website, "so the pitches were probably a little elevated."
Although Smith had trouble keeping the ball in the park, his teammates also have proven they can go deep. Kansas City, which got homers from Eric Hosmer and Brayan Pena on Monday, has connected for 11 home runs during a seven-game homer streak. The club has not homered in eight consecutive games since April 12-21, 2009.
Jeff Francoeur has been in the middle of Kansas City's power surge, going 16 for 32 with four homers during an eight-game hitting streak. He is 6 for 20 against Masterson, who has yielded just one homer over his last five starts and none in his last three at home.