The Indians took out the Blue Jays by winning the final game of the last series behind rookie starter, Danny Salazar. It is up in the air when he will get his next start, but he certainly earned his second start. This upcoming series against Kansas City will be the final set of games before the All-Star break. Despite losing three out of four to Detroit last week, the Indians are just 2.5 games back from Tigers and could move back into first place before the break with a sweep of the Royals and a Rangers sweep of the Tigers. This isn't as impossible as it may seem on the surface as the Rangers have been playing well of late and the Tigers just lost a series to the lowly White Sox.
Game 1: Friday, July 12th 7:05 PM EDT
Bruce Chen, LHP, 3-0, 2.41 ERA vs Corey Kluber, RHP, 6-5, 4.23 ERA
Chen will be making his first start of the season for the Royals after coming out of the bullpen all year. He has been used in long relief, stretched out to as many as four innings in relief. He has pitched against the Indians three times this year, and is yet to give up an earned run, but he hasn't proven that he can maintain his consistency over five innings. In fact, his worst appearances this year were in two games recently when he threw more than three innings.
Kluber had another good game in his last start, with his only weakness still being Miguel Cabrera. He lucks out this time as the Royals have no hitters in the universe of last year's Triple Crown winner.
Game 2: Saturday, July 13th 7:05 PM EDT
Jeremy Guthrie, LHP, 8-6, 4.12 ERA vs Scott Kazmir, LHP, 4-4, 4.74 ERA
Kazmir was serviceable in his last start out against the Tigers and did a great job keeping back their potent offense. As with the rest of the team, he faces a much less daunting task this time around against a team that is not only far inferior (to Detroit) offensively, but also as far as starting pitching is concerned. The Indians may use this start to decide how much they are willing to pay in a possible deadline deal to bring in more starting pitching. They have already been linked to Yovanni Gallardo of the Brewers and to a couple starters with the Cubs. None of the pitchers available in the early trade market seem to be of great value, so if Kazmir can come out and dominate over his next few starts, he could save the Indians a lot in not only money, but top level prospects.
Game 3: Sunday, July 14th 1:05 PM EDT
James Shields, RHP, 4-6, 3.12 ERA vs Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 7-4, 4.37 ERA
This game sets up to be a good way for the Indians to end the first half of the season as the Indians hit Shields hard in his last appearance against Cleveland. Jimenez matched up with Shields in that game and threw very well, with the bullpen being the only thing keeping him from a win. Jimenez pitched through the sixth inning last time out for the first time since the beginning of June and he will look to expand on that success this time around.