Series Preview: Indians at Royals 4/18- 4/21

The Tribe heads into Kansas City in sole possession of first place; the Royals are in second place, one game behind them. Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com wrote a good piece today entitled: “Everything is upside down in the AL Central.” It is easy to write both teams off as early season flukes, but both teams are outperforming their Pythagorean record by only one game, which means there may be more to it than simply “early season luck.” Royals Pitching: The Royals are striking out one batter per nine innings less than the Tribe (6.65-5.65), while they are walking slightly fewer batters per nine innings (2.96-2.57). The big difference between the two pitching staffs is that the Royals are allowing almost two more runs per nine innings than the Tribe, making them eighth in the league with 4.62 runs allowed per game. To prepare you for the season’s first showdown series between first and second place clubs, here are the pitching match-ups: Carlos Carrasco vs. Kyle Davis.

Jeanmar Gomez vs. Bruce Chen.

Justin Masterson vs. Luke Hochevar. Josh Tomlin vs. Sean O’Sullivan. They may not exactly household names in either city, but Royals and Indians fans, and some still are out there, could care less. Only the National League’s Rockies (12-3) and Phillies (10-4) began the week with a better records than the 11-4 A.L. Central-leading Indians and 10-5 second-place Royals, who meet at Kauffman Stadium over the next four nights. Here are five reasons, two of baseball’s youngest teams have ascended to the role of April surprises: 1. Indians starters. Masterson, Tomlin and Mitch Talbot all have ERAs under 3.00. Talbot, however, went on the disabled list with an elbow strain. 2. Kevin Seitzer. With so many Royals hitting, the hitting coach must be doing something right. Free-swinging Jeff Francoeur (.328) told the Kansas City Star his approach this season is his best ever, thanks to Seitzer. Manager Ned Yost says Alex Gordon also has benefited, and is leading the league in runs and is tied for the lead in hits. As a club, the Royals lead the A.L. in runs, average and OBP. 3. Hafner’s hitting. Indians DH Travis Hafner already has four homers, an indication his right shoulder finally is healthy. With Sunday’s return of center fielder Grady Sizemore, the Indians’ offense should get even healthier. 4. Shutdown closers. Besides one bad inning, Royals righthander Joakim Soria has pitched up to his All-Star reputation. The Indians’ Chris Perez remains a closer on the rise. He is five-for-five in save chances and has yet to allow a run in 7 1/3 innings. 5. Boss Yost. In his first spring with the Royals, Yost stressed better baserunning and improved fundamentals. The team is making strides in both areas. They have stolen 19 bases and been caught only four times. And they have allowed only four unearned runs.

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