After recording one-sided wins on Monday and Tuesday, the Cleveland Guardians will pursue a three-game sweep of the visiting Kansas City Royals on Wednesday afternoon.
Cleveland took the opener 7-3 behind two homers from Jose Ramirez, then rolled to an 8-3 win on Tuesday with help from Austin Hedges’ three-run homer.
Rookie left-hander Konnor Pilkington (0-0, 3.75 ERA) will start for the Guardians on Wednesday against Kansas City right-hander Brad Keller (1-5, 3.95).
Pilkington has never faced the Royals, while Keller is 2-2 with a 1.71 ERA against Cleveland in eight career starts. Keller is 1-2 with a 1.88 ERA in six career outings at Progressive Field.
The Guardians will look to continue their run of strong starting pitching. In the past 14 games, Cleveland starters have a sterling 2.95 ERA. In that span, the rotation has recorded 12 quality starts.
The latest effective outing came Tuesday from Cal Quantrill, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed six hits, three runs and no walks against Kansas City. The right-hander struck out five.
The Guardians’ bullpen is also hitting its stride, as the relief corps posted a 2.97 ERA in May after logging a 3.48 ERA in April.
The Royals, meanwhile, have lost three in a row and 10 of their past 12 games, leaving them with the worst record in the majors (16-32) at the start of June.
Right-handed reliever Jose Cuas, 27, became the 22nd pitcher to appear in a game for the Royals this season when he tossed a scoreless inning on Tuesday. He retired all three batters he faced, including a strikeout of the first hitter he opposed, Oscar Mercado.
“It was everything you dream about as a kid,” Cuas said. “When I got through the first pitch, I was able to breathe and relax. It was fun.”
Cuas, a former infielder in the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization, was converted to pitcher in 2018. He began last season with the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks and ended it with Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate in Omaha.
The Royals have nine players on the injured list and several others who are day-to-day due to injuries or illness.
The Royals pitched carefully to Ramirez on Tuesday, intentionally walking him in his first two plate appearances before walking him again in the sixth. They were the first intentional walks of the season for Ramirez, the reigning AL Player of the Week. He’s having a superb season and is batting .299 with 13 home runs and a major-league-leading 51 RBIs.
“I get it, man, he’s so good,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of the free passes.
Rookie outfielder Oscar Gonzalez has given the Guardians a consistent lift since he was promoted from Triple-A Columbus. He has hit safely in all of his major league games, collecting two hits in four of those contests. His 2-for-5 effort on Tuesday left him with a .429 average (9-for-21).
The right fielder also made a defensive contribution on Tuesday, throwing out Andrew Benintendi at the plate in the third inning to preserve a 3-2 lead.
“If you want to get the pitcher fired up, that’s it,” Quantrill said.
Benintendi, batting .328 on the season, has reached base in 22 consecutive games. He has seven hits in his past four games.
–Field Level Media