|Royals ride momentum into rubber match at Cleveland|
The Cleveland Indians were poised to win their eighth straight game against an American League Central rival before the bottom fell out in the ninth inning on Tuesday.
Now, the Indians will look to avert losing their second series to the last-place Kansas City Royals on Wednesday afternoon when the division rivals play the rubber match of their three-game set in Cleveland.
The Indians, who were swept in Kansas City from April 12-14, saw Brad Hand surrender five hits and five runs on 13 pitches without retiring a batter in an 8-6 setback to the Royals on Tuesday.
When asked if Hand was spent after making his fifth appearance in six games, Cleveland manager Terry Francona told reporters that his trusted closer will have a few days to recharge his batteries.
"He was throwing 94 mph," Francona said of Hand, who converted all 22 of his previous save opportunities. "He'll definitely have Wednesday off. Then we have a day off. But we check pretty closely with those guys."
Carlos Santana belted one of Cleveland's four homers on Tuesday to push his season total to a team-best 18, with four coming in his last six games.
But the big home run came off the bat of Kansas City's Hunter Dozier, who belted his first career grand slam to highlight a five-run uprising in the ninth inning.
"You just can't really put too much pressure on yourself," Dozier said. "It's just another at-bat. Really it comes down to competing against the pitcher. I think the biggest thing is just not putting that pressure on yourself."
Royals manager Ned Yost said he was pleased with his team's competitive fire heading into Wednesday's series finale.
"Our guys continue to battle. They don't quit -- they just keep coming at you," Yost said. "Most days they don't score five in the ninth, but it doesn't mean they're not out there battling their hearts out, so it was fun to see them get a little success."
Royals outfielder Whit Merrifield has enjoyed considerable success this season, as his two-run double and single on Tuesday boosted his major-league-high hit total to 102 and extended his hitting streak to six games (9-for-26, .346).
The 30-year-old is 10-for-24 (.417) against Cleveland this season and 6-for-20 (.300) in his career versus the Indians' Wednesday starter, Trevor Bauer (5-6, 3.69 ERA).
Bauer allowed five runs on a season high-tying 10 hits in four-plus innings of a no-decision versus the Detroit Tigers on Friday.
The 28-year-old right-hander owns a 3-4 mark with a 3.01 ERA in 14 career appearances (13 starts) versus the Royals.
Kansas City right-hander Jakob Junis (4-6, 5.18 ERA) will take the mound after yielding exactly two earned runs in each of his past three starts. The 26-year-old received his third straight no-decision on Friday despite striking out a season-high-tying eight in six innings versus the Minnesota Twins.
Junis also received a no-decision in his last encounter with Cleveland, allowing five runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings on April 14.
Francisco Lindor is 7-for-16 (.438) with three homers and nine RBIs against Junis, who owns a 2-2 record with a 5.87 ERA in seven career appearances (six starts) against the Indians.
--Field Level Media