INDIANS (61-42) AT ROYALS (39-66)
7:15 p.m. ET; FSKC, ST-OH, MLB.TV
When Mike Clevinger looks into the batter’s box and sees a guy wearing a Kansas City Royals (+1.5) uniform, the Cleveland Indians (-1.5) right-hander has to have a smile across his face. His seven victories are tied for the most without a loss against the Royals in Kansas City’s history.
Certainly there’s a detailed reason for his success.
“It’s coincidence is all,” Clevinger said. “Their lineup has been back and forth the last couple of years, but I don’t change anything. You look at the scouting report and kind of read swings.”
The stats betray that explanation. He’s 7-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 11 career appearances (10 starts) against Kansas City. This year, Clevinger is 4-2 with a 3.61 ERA. In four July starts, he’s 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA. He has walked five while striking out 34.
“He was throwing really hard like he has been lately,” Royals outfielder Jorge Soler said after Clevinger handcuffed the Royals in his last start against them July 3. “He had a good two-pitch mix and also included a breaking ball.”
Clevinger will look to continue Cleveland’s strong push to the playoffs. Since June 4, the Indians are 32-12, the best record in baseball. Clevinger has won his last three decisions and three of his last four starts.
The Indians won their second straight against the Royals, and their 11th in the last 13 games, by an 8-3 score Friday night.
Clevinger will get a chance to extend his success Saturday night as the Indians face the Royals in the third game of a four-game series. He’ll face a pitcher with an almost equally impressive — and unexplained — stat in Kansas City’s Glenn Sparkman.
Sparkman (3-6, 4.67 ERA) is not blowing anybody away with his stats, but at home it’s a different story. He’s 3-2 at Kauffman Stadium, but boasts a 1.76 ERA in 10 games (five starts). His last outing at home was his first complete game shutout vs. the Chicago White Sox (+1.5) on July 16.
So what’s his secret at home?
“I have no idea,” Sparkman said, sounding like his Saturday pitching counterpart. “I wish I had an answer, and I definitely wish I could fix that on the road without messing it up here.”
The home and road splits are pretty dramatic for Sparkman. His opponents’ OPS is almost double on the road, 1.075, vs. at home, .592. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is more dramatic, 3.25 at home to 1.42 on the road. All that results in an unsightly 8.73 ERA away from Kauffman Stadium.
“I always try to take advantage of my defense. I’ve got good guys behind me. This is a pitcher-friendly park; it’s a deep park. I have been giving up some home runs that maybe wouldn’t have been home runs here.
“But I just have to keep attacking and let me teammates help me.”
Sparkman faced the Indians in his last start, a 5-4 loss in Cleveland. He gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. Overall, he’s 0-1 with a 5.51 ERA in three career starts against the Indians.
He’s just hoping the friendly surroundings of Kauffman Stadium will come into play again Saturday.
–Field Level Media