Royals eye sweep of Indians vs. Kluber

Field Level Media

It doesn't matter if the opponent is ripping the cover off the ball or struggling to make contact. For a starting pitcher, it's all about following a routine and sticking to a game plan.

Sunday's matchup between the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals will feature two pitchers at opposite ends of the experience spectrum, but they're taking the same approach.

"You develop a game plan and an approach of how you want to get guys out," Indians ace Corey Kluber said. "You go out and try to execute that, whether they're hitting .100 or .300."

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Kluber (1-2, 3.86 ERA) has won two American League Cy Young Awards and has finished in the top three in the voting in four of the last five seasons. So he probably is someone Kansas City starter Jakob Junis should listen to. Junis has been compared to Kluber because of his demeanor on the mound, and apparently the similarity goes deeper than that.

"I just have to keep doing what I've been doing," said Junis (1-1, 5.74 ERA). "I feel like I've been making some pretty good pitches. My off-speed stuff has been pretty good. I just want to stay in that lane and stay consistent with that. Hopefully the results change a little bit for me."

Things have gone better for Kluber and his mates this season. Despite losing 8-1 to Kansas City on Friday and 3-0 on Sunday, Cleveland sits a half game back of first in the American League Central.

"We knew there were chances there were going to be times like this," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said after Homer Bailey and two relievers limited the Indians to just two hits on Saturday. "Hard to go through, but gotta keep fighting, gotta fight for everything you can get."

Cleveland will welcome former Colorado Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez to the lineup on Sunday. He is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Columbus, where he hit .348 with a home run and three RBIs in six games.

"I'm excited to be here," Gonzalez said prior to Saturday's game. "This is a great opportunity for me. The team's playing good baseball. For me, I was just doing my preparation the right way, and I'm just excited to be back in the big leagues.

"It's nice, obviously, to have some good numbers. It doesn't matter where you go, spring training, real games, exhibition games. You always want to do well. I'm glad everything went well."

The Royals have struggled this season, though most of the blame falls on the shoulders -- literally -- of the bullpen. Kansas City relievers are 0-6 with a 5.64 ERA (even after 4 1/3 shutout innings on Friday and Saturday).

"It's a good sign," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said of the improvement in the last two games. "It was good to bring in Ian (Kennedy on Saturday). It was a big test for Ian. He threw 34 pitches (in two innings on Wednesday), then had a day off, and then a nine-pitch inning last night and back-to-back tonight."

The mood in the clubhouse is still good. Catcher Martin Maldonado, who was signed when All-Star catcher Salvador Perez had season-ending Tommy John surgery, said that the mood remains upbeat despite the Royals' 4-10 start.

"We lost a couple of games, but when we won that game yesterday, people are more excited," he said. "At the same time when we lost those games, when we showed up, we thought we were going to win those games.

"We knew we were one pitch away. Things didn't go our way, but at the end of the day, we were confident that we could put some good games together."

--Field Level Media

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