|Indians look to stay hot against Royals|
Oscar Mercado was as cold as can be to begin the month of July, but the rookie sure is heating up now.
Fresh off his first career five-hit performance, Mercado bids to provide an encore as the surging Cleveland Indians aim to record a season-high seventh straight victory on Saturday against the visiting Kansas City Royals.
Mercado collected four singles and a double in Cleveland's 10-5 win in the series opener to improve to 10-for-19 with three homers, eight RBIs and six runs scored in his last five games.
"It feels good, but I think it feels even better to be playing the way we are," the 24-year-old Mercado said. "I have this thing that today is already over, you enjoy it for tonight, and be ready to play tomorrow."
Mercado's hot streak comes on the heels of his disastrous 1-for-25 stretch with six strikeouts to begin July.
"Everybody's going to go through a tough stretch, but you know a first-year player is," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "To see him not wilt, to see him come back with a vengeance, that's pretty exciting."
Mercado isn't alone in swinging a hot bat for the Indians, as Jose Ramirez is riding an 11-game hitting streak and Tyler Naquin has recorded multi-hit performances in six of his last seven starts.
Naquin, who belted a two-run shot on Friday, has six doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs in 11 games this month.
Keeping Cleveland in check on Saturday will be the responsibility of right-hander Jakob Junis (5-8, 5.08 ERA), who allowed one run on five hits while striking out a career-high 10 batters in Monday's 5-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
The victory was the first since May 30 for Junis, who permitted 11 runs on 15 hits to drop back-to-back decisions to Cleveland on June 26 and July 2, respectively.
Junis sports a 2-4 record with a 6.43 ERA in nine career appearances (eight starts) against Cleveland.
Francisco Lindor, who had three hits and three runs scored on Friday, is a robust 11-for-22 with six extra-base hits (three homers, three doubles) and nine RBIs against the 26-year-old Junis.
Cleveland right-hander Adam Plutko (3-1, 5.40 ERA) will take the mound after recording four straight no-decisions, including one on June 24 when he allowed one run on one hit -- a solo homer by Whit Merrifield -- in four innings versus Kansas City.
Plutko answered that outing by yielding back-to-back five-run performances, with three homers surrendered against Detroit on Monday.
The 27-year-old owns an 0-1 mark with a 5.06 ERA in three career appearances (two starts) versus the Royals.
Merrifield, who ripped a three-run triple on Friday, is 19-for-48 with seven extra-base hits (four doubles, one triple, two homers), nine RBIs and eight runs scored versus Cleveland this season.
"Offense did a nice job and (Merrifield) got us within one at that point and we had to do the best we can to hold it, but ... it got away from us late," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.
--Field Level Media