There's never a shortage of games between these two American League Central opponents, but they last met up on May 30 in Cleveland. Fortunately for both teams, Tuesday's starting pitchers bring a dose of familiarity to the series-opener at Kauffman Stadium.
The Indians will send veteran Derek Lowe to the mound. Lowe is 5-5 in 24 career games (11 starts) against Kansas City with a 4.52 ERA. He picked up a win in a solid performance against these Royals back on April 13. Lowe went 6 2/3 innings, allowing just three runs despite giving up 11 hits to spoil the Royals' home opener.
But Lowe's season has taken a turn for the worse since then. In his first eight starts, he was 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA. Since, he's 2-8 in 12 starts with a 7.59 ERA. He's lost in three straight starts, and he's allowed 14 total runs in his last two outings.
The struggling Lowe could be just what the doctor ordered for a Royals team that has had trouble scoring runs of late. In the first three games of their series in Seattle, the Royals scratched across a total of just five runs.
Kansas City's Hochevar will make his 14th career start against Cleveland, the most against any opponent. In 13 previous starts against the Indians, Hochevar went 5-8 with a 5.57 ERA.
Hochevar has pitched against the Tribe twice already this season, with both starts coming in April. He was Lowe's opponent on April 13 and was the main reason the Indians cruised to an 8-3 victory, surrendering seven runs on nine hits in just four innings of work. He was much better on April 25, when he was victorious at Progressive Field, allowing just two runs over 6 1/3 innings to snap the Royals' 12-game skid.
It looked like the righty had turned his rocky start around with a solid seven-start stretch in June and July that saw him go 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA. But he was roughed up badly in his last start against the Angels, allowing eight runs (six earned) on nine hits in three innings before being ejected for hitting Mike Trout with a pitch.
"He was pitching really well and then he kind of stubbed his toe in Anaheim," said Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland. "He was a little out of rhythm and his tempo was too fast, he didn't have any command of his breaking ball and he basically went out there with one pitch, his fastball, and with a lineup like that, they can figure that out pretty quick.
"But I look for him to get back on and get back to where he was prior to that and pitch good."
Indians: Feasting against Hochevar
Five Indians hitters have given Hochevar a tough time over the course of his career. Casey Kotchman (.375), Asdrubal Cabrera (.375) and Michael Brantley (.412) all have high averages against him, but they're not even the most prolific batters on the roster. Jack Hannahan is hitting .438 against Hochevar with two home runs, three doubles and six RBIs. Shin-Soo Choo, though, has been the biggest thorn in Hochevar's side, hitting .600 (15-for-25) against him with four doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs. His career OPS against the right-hander is 1.763.
Catcher Carlos Santana has been productive in July. In 23 games, Santana is hitting .274 with a .444 on-base percentage. He's also hit seven doubles, smacked four home runs, walked 18 times and driven in 12 runs.
The Indians have struggled away from Progressive Field of late, dropping 21 of their last 32 road games. This is mainly due to struggling pitchers, who on the season have a 5.56 road ERA compared to their 3.77 home ERA. Indians hurlers have allowed eight more home runs on the road than they have at home, and they have struck out 57 more batters at home (365) than on the road (308).
Royals: Short-handed on Tuesday?
Third baseman Mike Moustakas left Saturday's game with a sprained right knee following a diving defensive play at third. He was out of the lineup for Sunday's series finale with the Mariners, and it's possible he won't play on Tuesday, either.
"All indications are it's a bit of a bone bruise," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's a tough kid, so we'll see how he feels getting through [Sunday] and [Monday]."
Slumping right fielder Jeff Francoeur also sat on Sunday. He has just five hits in his last 50 plate appearances.
"He's struggling," Yost said. "We may give him more than a day. We're going to try to find a way to get him back to being productive."
Lowe has had a mixed bag of results over the years against fellow ex-Brave Francoeur. The outfielder is hitting just .229 lifetime against Lowe with just eight hits. But, three of those hits have gone for extra bases, and one of them was a home run. Francoeur also has four career RBIs against Lowe.
Royals starting pitchers have won just three games in July. Entering play on Sunday, they ranked last in the American League.